The new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, immediately set out his objective to expand the use technology in the NHS when he replaced Jeremy Hunt in July 2018. He champions the case for Artificial Intelligence (AI), improved document management, and using data to improve efficiency and patient care.
The NHS is one of the world’s largest employers, with around 1.5 million staff across the UK. The 70-year-old institution is looking to modernise, and some trusts—as demonstrated later—are pioneering data technology to improve patient care. However, many legacy challenges remain; recent reports have uncovered that the NHS still uses 9,000 fax machines and around 130,000 pagers.
This is in addition to the fact that satisfaction levels with the NHS are at their lowest since 2011. How can NHS trusts use data to improve the patient experience?
Be clear on objectives
Mr Hancock states, “using the best of modern technology must be done in a way that improves care, makes money go further, and makes life easier for staff.”
This echoes the objectives of many health sector customers, who are looking to:
- Improve operational processes
- Reduce supply chain costs
- Provide better patient experience and care
By being clear on their objectives, healthcare bodies throughout the supply chain can develop apps to achieve those goals.
For example, healthcare providers can create apps to deliver real-time insights into patient, financial, and operational data, empowering professionals to make more informed decisions around patient care, service provision, and supply chain activity.
Pharmaceutical salespeople can access mobile insights to maximise the little time they have with key purchasing decision makers.
Purchasers can gain enhanced insights to collaborate more effectively with providers and manage the supply chain even more effectively.
Data-led healthcare in action
The Liverpool Community Health (LCH) NHS Trust runs 60 services across 100 sites in North West England, employing 3,500 staff. The trust saw the potential in arming staff with mobile data and set about developing an application.
LCH developed an iPad app, named “OPERA” (Organisational Performance Electronic Reporting Application), which enables staff to access and update data wherever they are, so they no longer need to return to a fixed computer. This enables staff to spend more face-to-face time with patients.
At an organisational level, LCH managers and consultants can access and interact with data at their fingertips, thus helping the trust reduce paper and honour its commitment to sustainability.
Feedback has been very positive and LCH’s experience is a great example of how innovative trusts can use data on-the-go to increase productivity, provide significant cost savings, and—most importantly—provide a better patient experience.
Making data-led healthcare a reality
LCH reports that its OPERA programme paid back within a year, and the trust is looking to roll out further mobile technology initiatives across the group.
NHS trusts will be limited only by their imagination as they mine data for critical information. Think of the possibilities that data visualisation can bring to health bodies: heat maps, bubble charts, combination charts, visualisation filters, and trend lines, to name just a few—all designed with specific goals in mind.
Becoming data-led requires data leadership, and healthcare bodies will need to create fully invested cultures, have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and how, and communicate that to staff. It requires advocates at every level and a clear idea on objectives and progress measurements.
The example of the Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust demonstrates that with solid leadership, NHS trusts can meet the challenges of improving efficiency and productivity while reducing costs and improving patient care. This means better service and better value to the taxpayer.
If Mr Hancock’s vision is to become a reality, expect more NHS trusts to pick up the mantle and become innovative, data-led organisations.
Where is your organisation on this journey?