Can technology relieve the pressure on healthcare workers?

Nathan Baranowski

Healthcare

Faced with massive cuts in funding, a rapid rise in the number of patients with chronic conditions and an ageing population, it’s no secret that the national health service is struggling to deliver on its founding principles.

With demand high and continuing to grow rapidly, healthcare workers are more stretched than ever. Despite a 10 per cent increase in emergency admissions, a 15 per cent rise in ambulance calls and a 19 per cent jump in the need for diagnostic tests, the workforce has only grown by 6 per cent since 2014.  

In theory, a recruitment drive is desperately needed to deliver the level of patient care expected from the NHS. In practice, attracting and retaining talent is a challenge in itself as jobs on the frontline become increasingly harder and more pressurised. What’s more, as Brexit looms, healthcare practices may have to contend with another critical hit to their human resource should a no-deal scenario bring about a ‘Brexodus’ of EU workers.  

According to eye-opening findings from a recent survey, 59 per cent of staff are already working unpaid overtime each week, the standard of care heavily reliant on discretionary efforts of overworked industry professionals. As uncertainty prevails, practices under pressure must find ways in which it can overcome this challenge in the short-term that do not jeopardise the health of existing workers.  

Fortunately, advancements in technology are beginning to prove highly beneficial in aiding to alleviate the strain on healthcare professionals. Earlier this year, for example, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust launched their new digital post-natal discharge system powered by Lumeon technology.  

The system provides the practice with a digital dashboard in which team members can track and prioritise their tasks in real-time as well as communicate more effectively with new mothers on the next steps for getting ready to go home.  

Not only does the new digital discharge system allow for more personalised care, it enhances efficiency and reduce costs by eliminating issues in communication and providing a holistic view of the post-natal care process. By improving the post-natal patient experience, the aim of the system is to lower mean discharge waiting times to under two hours, freeing up an estimated 1,000 bed days a year.   

In a bid to drag the NHS back from the brink of collapse, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock recently pledged almost half a billion pounds to transform technology in the NHS with the aim of improving patient care and reduce staff workload.  

In his first speech since being appointed, Hancock listed tech as a key priority and mused about its potential to prevent illness and assist the workforce. Roughly £412m will be directed at giving more patients access to health services at home through the development of healthcare apps, for instance, whole a further £75m will be given to help trusts overhaul a paper-based infrastructure with electronic system to reduce errors by up to 50 per cent. 

In their Long-Term Plan, NHS England promised that health professionals would soon have the “tools they need to efficiently deliver safe and effective patient care”, enable them to ”capture all health and care information digitally at the point of care”, and support staff to develop their digital skills and work more flexibly. Published in January 2019, the plan makes clear the intention of NHS leaders to see all staff working in the community to have access to mobile digital devices to streamline processes and make healthcare practices more satisfying for staff to work in.  

In the blueprint, NHS England also put forward their offering of a digital-first care option for patients, a service which already exists in some practices in the form of telephone or online consultations that save both time and travel expenses. The digital-first primary care option will mean those who need medical attention can have “longer and richer face-to-face consultations.” 

As we move into the fourth industrial revolution, NHS practices must draw strength from key technology partnerships to reap the benefits that emerging solutions fuelled by AI, automation or voice tech can have in relieving pressure on healthcare staff.  

From websites and apps that make medical advice accessible to everyone to sophisticated neural networks that allow for quick and accurate patient data analysis, there is an undeniable opportunity for practices to usher in a new era of patient care – one that is assisted by technology but more human-centric than ever before. 

If your charity or organization operates within the healthcare sector and you want to make sure you’re getting the most of your technology, OJO Solutions is here to guide you through the process. Contact a member of the team at hello@ojosolutions.com or by phoning 01225 220155. 

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