Technology – what’s the point?

  |   Thought Leadership

photo-8There are many different answers to this question. Safety, efficiency, reduced errors, cost to name but a few.


Whatever your view on technology in health, it is widely accepted that technology in the NHS to date hasn’t worked. The National Programme for IT (NPfIT) has been widely criticised as an expensive indulgence dreamt up by the previous Labour government.


At MBI Health Group, we believe technology can be a benefit to the NHS. The difficulty however is that it has been thought about exactly in those terms –benefiting the NHS. Too often this has missed the point.


With £7.3 billion spent to date, we have ended up moving from a giant mess of paper to a giant mess of both paper and IT systems. But why?


“Technology should benefit the patient first; to date it simply has not done this.”


The focus of the programme has not been on patients – benefits have been mapped to acute hospital trusts, clinicians, managers and just about everybody bar the patient. Of course everyone will claim that a more efficient system ultimately benefits the patient but too often the patient has not been the first priority.


Delays in implementation have resulted in the bizarre situation in which “new” IT systems are actually out of date when compared to the rapid transformation of services in other sectors. Patients are now used to a world in which they are connected – they can interact with their friends, family, banks, airlines and just about anything else they wish through the internet.


“Expectations have changed. The NHS has not.”


I still cannot receive emails from my local acute hospital detailing my appointment, yet I can log in to my local Apple store and book an appointment in less than 5 minutes. Granted, healthcare is more complex than getting your iPhone fixed but not for the vast majority of patients.Technology in the NHS needs to stop and rethink its priorities.


If technology focuses on the patient cost savings will follow. We can envision a system where the patient only attends hospital when it is absolutely necessary or wanted by the patient, where I can login to my health record and manage all of my appointments with various providers in one place. Where social technology is put at the forefront of care – with patient groups for particular conditions, videos for preassessment, managing long-term conditions, exercise advice, hospital ratings, quality outcomes of doctors and their teams are all available in one place. Where my GP can check for updates on any tests, or inpatient stays or long-term condition management. Where I can FaceTime the clinician in charge of my condition, and arrange to see him or her if I want to.


If we can envision it, why can’t the NHS?


None of this is rocket science – talk to patients, talk to staff and reprioritise.

To recap:

  • Technology in health needs to focus on improving access to services for patients.
  • Technology in health needs to focus on reducing errors.
  • Technology in health needs to allow patients to have as much or as little control of their conditions as they want.