May 17, 2020

Harnessing the power of technology to facilitate a paperless NHS

NHS
Digital health
NHS
Digital health
Wes Craddock, International Sa...
4 min
NHS (Getty Images)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the healthcare sector in the UK is under ever-greater pressure to do more with less. As the population both...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the healthcare sector in the UK is under ever-greater pressure to do more with less. As the population both expands and ages, and as cutting-edge new treatments and innovations become available – at a cost – the NHS needs to deal with more challenges, choose between more interventions, and do all this in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

It is also a truth universally acknowledged that ‘digital transformation’ is one of the technology buzz phrases of the moment. Multiple definitions circulate, but broadly speaking we can conceive it as the replacement of previously manual or disparate processes with digital and unified ones. The potential impacts of this are wide-ranging. Tedious manual tasks are automated, freeing up resource to focus on longer-term or more complex, creative and strategic tasks. Physical information sources are digitised, reducing errors, saving physical resources and speeding up data-sharing and collaborative decision-making. Information that previously went entirely untapped is captured and harnessed, informing tangible change and business improvements.

Link these two concepts together, and it is easy to see why ‘using digital technology to transform the NHS and social care’ is such a top priority.

Paperless 2020 initiative

Central to this is the drive towards paperless processes. Since the smooth running of the NHS and social care systems depends to a large degree on the transition of patient records between multiple different systems, and those records have historically been paper-based, creating centralised and digitised information sources enables greater speed, accuracy and collaboration at a single stroke. This is particularly important in light of goals to generate closer working between health and social care services, and as medical innovations mean that more and more services, clinics, teams and individuals may be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of any individual patient.

The Paperless 2020 initiative, then, should ultimately grant multiple disparate stakeholders access to the same centralised and digital information sources, enabling data to be shared and added to more easily, decisions to be made more quickly and mistakes minimised. In short, it should improve both patient experience and outcomes, and the NHS bottom line.

That ‘bottom line’ phrase is key, however. Unlike some businesses, which may be able to try out the latest technology as an experimental measure, the NHS absolutely must deliver value for money from each new technology deployment. Here, digital transformation has to drive genuine savings, first time.

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The importance of hardware

This draws us towards a sometimes-neglected facet of the transition to paperless processes. Clearly, a key part of any such initiative is the digitisation of existing paper records. They need to be scanned, the data extracted and transformed into a new digital format and then securely stored on some kind of centralised platform. All this needs to be achieved with the highest levels of security, given the sensitivity of the information involved, and patient consent needs to be considered too.

However, once all this is achieved, another key aspect of paperless processes is how that digital information is actually accessed, harnessed, contributed to and updated by the healthcare staff who need it. In other words, medical practitioners who previously relied on clipboards and pens now need to be provisioned with hardware that can handle this newly digitised information, such as medical grade PCs and medical carts that are integrated with Electronic Prescribing and Medicines Administration (ePMA).

Here, there are a number of critical procurement decisions to make. Every device used by NHS staff needs to comply with the strict data protection standards required in the healthcare sector, and be able to withstand tough environmental conditions and demanding environments. A tablet that shatters the moment it is dropped on a hard hospital floor, or a medical cart that cannot cope with being moved hundreds of times a day, quickly becomes a liability.

Above all, in light of the substantial cost pressures faced by the NHS, it is important to consider the useful lifespan and therefore total cost over time of every proposed hardware deployment. This is an often overlooked yet utterly critical factor in making procurement decisions. Many of the devices used by medical practitioners to access newly digitised information, such as those tablets and carts, rely on internal batteries. If those batteries have a relatively short lifespan before they need replacing, then the device as a whole rapidly becomes debilitatingly costly, as well as requiring administrative resource to manage. Similarly, hardware which requires frequent upgrades or patches can rapidly become more expensive overall than costlier but more hardwearing equipment.

As such, it is critical for NHS Trusts and organisations making the move to paperless processes to consider procurement costs over months or years, rather than as a purely upfront investment. Hardware lifespan is a central piece of the puzzle when it comes to calculating the cost – and benefits – of digital transformation in the NHS.

About Howard Medical

As a leading manufacturer of quality medical carts that continue to secure market recognition, Howard Medical provides real-world healthcare solutions that are designed to ease workflows, boost efficiency, and enhance patient care.  Along with our revolutionary POC carts, we offer specialized hardware technologies that are vital to EMR, CPOE, PACS, and other health-related systems.

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Jun 16, 2021

Five minutes with Stanley Healthcare's Troy Dayon

AI
elderlycar
machinelearning
remotepatientmonitoring
5 min
Troy Dayon, President of Stanley Healthcare and Stanley Access Technologies, explains how tech can help carers support an aging population

Stanley Healthcare provides technology solutions for caregivers, whether they are in a hospital, a care home, or at home. Here the company's President Troy Dayon explains the challenges carers face and what role technology plays in care for the elderly. 

The healthcare workforce is shrinking while the population is aging. How can this be addressed? 
Not only is the healthcare workforce shrinking, but the industry is facing the issue of overload and burnout among healthcare professionals. 

One major approach to address this is to help each caregiver to accomplish more – not by pushing them harder but by focusing their attention on the things that matter most, harnessing technology such as AI and machine learning. 

This technology provides caregivers with information on what care is needed, and which patients or residents to focus on first based on risk or acuity. The insights that it provides can help caregivers to be more efficient and address issues that would usually require more of their time, such as critical asset location, which takes time away from giving the care where it’s needed most. 

What do healthcare providers need to do to address clinician burnout? 
It is key for healthcare providers to understand the setting and the specific environment in which clinicians have been working. Many hospitals across the globe reconfigured entire wards to treat COVID-19 patients, and for more than a year, clinicians have been working in crisis mode. 

They need the opportunity to return to regular, sustainable routines, supported by technologies that help make them more efficient, but also more fulfilled because they maximise time with patients, applying their hard-earned education and experience to work at the top of their license.

In aged care, the experience of managing a highly contagious and deadly virus has reinforced the need for a proactive approach to managing the health of residents. Caregivers need predictive tools like the Foresite solution to help them understand which residents are at greatest risk, so they can focus their efforts where they can have the most impact. 

How can technology support older people? 
AI-based technology such as Foresite harnesses a range of passive monitoring technologies to develop a baseline profile of a resident in aged care that highlights changes in health or behaviour. This information can help caregivers see where and when they need to spend their time, identifying heightened risk for falls and early indication of heart issues and even infections. 

In fact, the technology has been shown to accurately predict events like falls, which allows intervention prior to an event occurring, rather than just automating routine processes.

Beyond this, connecting caregivers remotely to seniors to provide efficient care outside of traditional care settings is crucial. During the pandemic, there was a marked increase in the use of telehealth and remote monitoring of vitals, medication management and daily health. 

These technologies fill a major gap in healthcare delivery: care for patients once they’ve been discharged from hospital, or for seniors who need some level of care but don’t need to be in an aged care home. By caring for people effectively in their own homes, we can help reduce the burden on hospitals from readmissions and leverage the expertise of aged care organisations beyond the confines of the four walls of the facility. 

A lot of care is in fact delivered by unpaid carers. How can they be better supported with tech?

The remote monitoring technology that professional caregivers have access to can, in turn, also provide information and support to unpaid caregivers. For example, helping ensure a loved one is taking their medication, or knowing when they might be experiencing a change in health that can put them at risk. 

Human observation is inherently limited, no matter how often you see a loved one, and you can’t always rely on what a senior says about themselves. It’s very common that they downplay problems, because no one wants to be a burden or relinquish their independence. 

Remote solutions that connect family to an older relative help increase safety and wellbeing for the senior and reduce the burden on caregivers. They also make possible care decisions based on facts. At some point, a senior may need to transition to an aged care setting, which is often a difficult family conversation. This is an area where we can offer support to unpaid caregivers – reassurance during what is typically a very stressful period for the people providing that care. 

In Japan several large hospitals are deploying robot nurses. Is this a potential solution? 
I think the best path for robotics in healthcare is to focus on the root problem. It’s about dealing with a limited number of caregivers for a population that’s rapidly aging. Robotic technologies offer solutions that support the human healthcare providers with the information they need to make better and faster decisions about care. It’s about convergence and use of technology rather than a specific solution such as a robotic nurse.

This technology could be in the form of AI and machine learning or a robotic agent for routine administrative tasks. Removing low-value activities that distract caregivers from giving care is a key focus when it comes to robotics in healthcare. This automation can free up time for caregivers to spend more time with patients while optimising workflows. 

Robots in this sense don’t replace humans. They are leveraged for what they do well – repetitive routines done with speed and precision – while humans are given the time and space to deliver what ultimately we all want: human-centered care. 

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