Increasing use of technology in health and social care can transform patient care. In fact, technology is already revolutionising some sectors. For example, the NHS Long Term Plan suggests using digital data to reduce administrative burden. It also describes a digital-first primary care model, giving patients the choice of remote treatment. And, in the future, it will allow streamlined specialist advice services. But, how can technology help patients? The answer is simple: it empowers people.
The Government has placed technological advancement at the heart of its vision for the future of health and social care. Minister Matt Hancock has highlighted the role of technology, as one of his three health priorities. His Topol review outlines the top health technologies, details the benefits of digital healthcare and sets out a roadmap for their progression and dissemination. Key elements of this review include integration, efficiency, safety and quality, which will be crucial to transforming healthcare in the future.
Rather than relying on industry innovation, healthcare leaders must ensure that their workforce is well-trained in health and technology. Staff with technical skills and knowledge of the sector can participate in productive discussions with vendors and developers. These skills will allow users to define their needs and help healthcare organisations purchase the right technology. If they do, they can even lead the way in advancing the sector. In addition, this knowledge will help the healthcare industry build bespoke tools.
Another example of technology in health and social care is Amazon Echo/Alexa, a smart speaker that can be controlled with voice commands. It can record tasks that home care providers need to perform, remind people of medication, or even manage medications. The device has already been trialled in Hampshire and has a variety of benefits. As a remote carer, a family member can use the device to remind service users to take their pills. Other benefits of the Alexa device include helping those who are partially blind or socially isolated.
The WSIC programme in north-west London, for example, uses analytics on top of integrated health data to support direct care and population health. Its analytics enable care staff to identify individuals who require help, based on factors such as frailty, risk of admissions, and missed care. It can also help facilitate multidisciplinary team meetings. The research is ongoing and is designed to improve patient care. This blog is written by Esther Trehearn, a former NHS nurse and social care worker.
The future of healthcare technologies will be shaped by the priorities of the government. For example, it will be easier to collect patient data if the government wants to track down illegal immigrants and outlaws. In such a case, the notion of confidentiality and privacy will be eroded. Moreover, it will be harder to protect patients when privacy is at stake. It should be a priority in the Government’s Future Vision.