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Focus on now-tech before high-tech

By matthew walker, PA healthcare expert

From using virtual reality to transform surgical training to learning how Artificial Intelligence can make clinical diagnoses, we heard about a number of exciting innovations at our recent Reinventing Healthcare event. All of these developments have the potential to truly change how we provide and receive care.

Healthcare has always made progress by pushing the boundaries of science and technology. Personally I find these innovations really exciting, but let’s pause to reflect on the reality of technology implementation in healthcare today. The fact is we haven’t even utilised the commonplace, technology most of us use every day which could dramatically improve our experience of healthcare.

The Daily Telegraph recently reported that 10,000 lives a year could be saved if doctors ditched pagers. Surely the use of pagers in hospitals must be their last stand against the march towards smartphones and WhatsApp? Meanwhile, a recent study published in the British Journal of General Practice found that of the 319 GP practices surveyed, none were making use of video consultations – and none had any plans to do so. And this is despite senior NHS leaders advocating this method of consultation since 2011. An often cited barrier is that use of digital technology excludes the elderly, but one ‘super-practice’ in the UK delivers most of their online consultations to the over 65s.

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Reinventing healthcare

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People increasingly expect to have the convenience and quality they experience in some aspects of their lives to be the experience they have in all parts of their lives. Healthcare is no exception. Rather than “protecting” those who aren’t used to these technologies we should be helping them to share in the benefits that they bring. The fantastic idea of reverse mentoring, where more tech savvy generations help those who struggle more with technology could have this, as well as other social benefits, if it were extended beyond the work place into our communities.

The same change is occurring in learning and education. At home, if we want to understand how to perform a new task, many of us go to YouTube. But most learning in the workplace still takes place in a classroom. We are working with organisations across industries to change this and, in doing so, transform the effectiveness of learning.

If we are concerned about uptake in technology by patients then we need to start with the real needs and expectations of the user. Empathy is essential – without it you won’t understand the needs of the user and are unlikely to develop good technology solutions. Take our work with the award-winning Argenti Telecare Partnership. This has used relatively commonplace technologies to save Hampshire County Council over £4.7 million in the first three years and drive up quality for over 7,000 citizens (with 98% of those surveyed willing to recommend the service to others). And how did they do this? By a relentless and expert focus on the needs of the citizen and the required care outcomes. 

As these commonplace technologies are used by patients in their everyday lives, it’s our duty to help make them available in healthcare. So if we are to make the greatest difference to the lives of the greatest number of the population, we should first focus on now-tech ahead of high-tech.

Find out more about our work in healthcare.

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