Adopting digital technologies creates important opportunities for the NHS in Scotland to respond to ever-rising and complex demands together with ongoing budget challenges. By having digital access to services, citizens and patients can gain more control of their own healthcare. And digitally-enabled working optimises the use of resources, provides a better working environment for staff, and reduces environmental impacts.
Giving more power and control to citizens
Wearable devices that monitor our vital signs and activity levels are increasingly used by people of all ages, whether they are well or already have a long-term condition. We’re moving in to a world in which all citizens will have access to these kinds of self-service tools to manage their own health and wellbeing. With smart clothing and wearable devices, data can be captured and used to help people make more informed lifestyle choices.
For the ‘worried well’, digital technologies will make available more personalised, reliable information and advice to reduce demand on traditional services. For example, like-minded groups will, increasingly, be able to support each other to meet their personal goals to stay fit and healthy. People living at home who need care will be able to choose which information to share with their care providers, families and other carers (called their ‘circle of care’) so that, for example, the wellbeing of the elderly can be monitored remotely by authorised relatives.
Supporting and empowering patients
When citizens become patients, digital technologies can help to manage their conditions and treatment regimes. Social media is one way of sharing information and supporting people day to day through online communities. More and more patients will use video calls and share data online with clinicians to get advice and, where appropriate, self-diagnose, triage or refine dosages. Digital channels and tools will help patients more quickly connect to the right service, at a time of their choosing, and progress their healthcare journey. Again, smart devices will monitor any changes, instantly informing the relevant medical professional to take required actions.
With huge progress being made in genomic research, personalised medicine will also become a day-to-day reality. This means that prescriptions and care plans are created for each person based on their genetics and preferences as well as their condition.
With information shared between the patient’s circle of care, carers will be able to use digital channels to attend appointments via videoconferencing and view key indicators online. Patients will have access to world-class specialists from the comfort of their home, with emergency care data available instantly across the world. Should the patient require any supporting services, these will be available from a variety of providers and automatically provisioned at the time of patient need. If a prescription is needed, these will be ordered and processed digitally and patients will be able to collect them at a time and place convenient to them.
Enabling and supporting staff
Digital technologies and communication tools also help NHS staff. Increasingly, they will have access to powerful analytical and cognitive tools to support timely day-to-day clinical decision-making, with the potential for the following to be implemented:
- Stressful and time-consuming travel could be reduced by holding case conferences and multi-agency meetings online, with video links where needed
- Staff will be able to develop their skills and gain qualifications through virtual reality sessions at home
- The automation of administration processes such as rostering will free up more time for patient care.
Transforming service provision
Digital technologies for storing and analysing data will enable a major shift in the delivery of care. With more and more patient consultations happening remotely, expensive hospital facilities will be used for more complex cases. The design and location of healthcare services will be informed by sophisticated analytics that draw on population stratification and demographic information. Increasingly, analysis of data will mean that ward and clinic staffing levels will be automatically predictable on an hour-by-hour basis using information on patient conditions and dependency levels, as well as weather and other datasets.
Delivering digital transformation
Delivering transformational change and embedding new technologies into high-pressure clinical settings is always challenging. It demands new thinking to do things differently, optimising and maintaining core services while delivering transformation through a roadmap of digital innovation. Scotland is blazing a trail with its national e-Health strategy and action plan for Technology Enabled Care to drive efficiency and improve outcomes.
In today’s climate, making any digital vision a reality demands that organisations think strategically and optimise all available resources.
“In our work with customers, it’s clear that ongoing innovation and digital transformation are key to meeting ever-widening medical challenges and ever-growing demand,” concludes Gary Smith, Client Executive, NHS Scotland, Atos UK&I. “Delivering this transformation will involve citizens, families, carers, providers and voluntary organisations working together, helping to shape the future of health and social care for the people of Scotland.”
Like this? Then find out more about the Digital Vision for Scotland opinion paper which highlights the dramatic effect of digital technologies in Scotland, and the potential for the country to create competitive advantage in today’s global economy. Click here to find out more.