Advancements in technology are exciting. The idea that we can manage long-term health conditions from our smart phones, face time our GPs and even use computer application to read patient scans is fascinating, but is it really the saviour we assume it will be?
Implementing the technology into the existing processes may have some benefits but will it really instigate large scale change? Take patient centred care as one example. More than ever, patients are requesting more control over their healthcare; people are taking more of an interest in their health and wellbeing, and one of the ways that the consumer market has accounted for this is with wearable health trackers and health apps on our smartphones. We displayed a need, and the healthcare market responded. This is something the NHS is in the process of learning – the ability to conform to the consumer. We need to be having the conversation about what our patients need or want before we begin to discuss the addition of technology; redesign, continuous evaluation and a willingness to change clinical practice need to come first.
Recent TV documentaries, such as BBC2’s “Hospital”, have documented the day to day challenges faced by the NHS – and the public response has been huge. Figures quoted by the Kings Fund (2018) (link below) found that the series had around 2.5 million viewers per episode and that since the release of the series in 2017 there had been a dramatic increase in public engagement and even a decrease in complaints regarding cancellations and waiting times. As the BBC documentary has shown, patient engagement and understanding can provide a huge platform. We, as an organisation, should be allowing our patients to make informed decisions and one of the ways in which we can do that is by letting them In on the inner workings of the NHS day to day in the aiming them developing realistic expectations for themselves, rather than what they see in the media.
So where am I going with this? Modern society sees the NHS as its possession (something that has been evident in the research for many years), and due to this we need to start including the public in decision making surrounding the future of the organisation. The process has to be bottom up if we want to stay current. As well as this the public now see their health as vitally important and subsequently (and rightly) want the opportunity to help manage it themselves.
Here, technology has to be the enabler and not the change itself. We must change the pathways and our ways of working to be more patient centred and then we must add the technology to enable the change.
To those of you who have an assessment day lined up, or those who are interested in applying for the scheme in the future, I would suggesting having a think about how technology has changed healthcare and how you (as possible future managers) can help healthcare work with people to ensure patients are both satisfied and well informed.
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