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Taking the pulse of healthcare technology investments

For the first time in NHS history, junior doctors have taken strike action; a reaction to government plans to introduce seven-day working throughout the NHS. The changes have been proposed in an attempt to provide a better, safer healthcare service for patients. However, junior doctors argue that proposed changes to their contracts will lead to long working hours that will compromise the safety of both doctors and their patients.

Patients expect high-quality healthcare, whether they are in the emergency room or their local surgery. They want reassurance that the staff will know their medical history, results of their recent tests and most importantly, that they will be taken care of in a timely manner, no matter what health issue brought them in. Increasing demands mean that overworked employees become more prone to making medical errors. Being overworked affects concentration and competence, exacerbated by erratic working hours and stress.

To complicate matters, research indicates that the NHS has been missing many of its key targets. Casualty departments are particularly overwhelmed by demand, with A&E units missing failing to see, treat or discharge A&E patients within four hours. Ambulances also missed their target to answer 75 per cent of the most serious 999 calls in eight minutes and the NHS 111 phone service missed its target to answer 95 per cent of calls within 60 seconds. Further signs of strains on the system are seen in the fact that 1.9 per cent of patients had been waiting over six weeks for diagnostic tests - nearly twice the proportion that should be suffering delays.

To improve the quality of care, hospitals must grasp resources more effectively. As these challenges are operational in nature, mitigating them, as well as meeting or exceeding patient expectations, will need a more “connected” approach, which can be achieved by improving the technological infrastructure offered in NHS establishments.

Smart devices – connected to a reliable wireless network with bandwidth to spare – can deliver access to timely, accurate and actionable patient data. Armed with the ability to input and access real-time patient data anywhere, healthcare workers can quickly identify a life-threatening drug allergy or quickly identify surgical procedure complications. Administrators can also determine the location of their staff members, what activities they are performing and how well they are performing them. The ability to integrate patient medical records and needed care data with location and availability information on specific medical supplies, equipment, and clinical staff makes it easier to respond rapidly to patient needs.

Better Visibility Improves Outcomes

Visibility into the facility is everything – including supplies, equipment, staff and patient health details. It allows healthcare organisations to achieve key patient care outcomes, satisfaction and operational goals. The benefits of enabling nurses’ mobility and other healthcare professionals with portable devices and solutions that can scan patient wristbands and connect to critical patient information via wireless access points are vast and hard to ignore.

These devices can also streamline administrative processes and workflows so that nurses can spend more time responding to patients’ needs, and less time looking for equipment, medications and updating paper charts. Integrated mobile solutions can bring complete patient data directly to the bedside, where decisions and updates can be made immediately. They also enhance and facilitate greater collaboration between doctors and other healthcare practitioners.

What does a “connected” healthcare model look like? Imagine if patient data, hospital staff and equipment are all connected in real-time. Imagine if the patient experience can be tracked from the time the patient is admitted to the hospital to the time the patient is discharged. Waiting time is limited, the patient is aware of exactly when a doctor or nurse will arrive; when a procedure will start and when final test results will be ready. The hospital would also have real-time visibility into the equipment and staff that a patient’s procedure requires - and the digital intelligence to know where those assets and staff members are located, to facilitate the procedure efficiently. When the patient is discharged from the healthcare facility, he or she does so with real-time access to test results, his/her doctor’s orders and educational material that enables a positive healthcare outcome. Family and caregivers can even monitor their loved one’s progress inside the hospital and out.

Also consider health outbreaks in this scenario - hospital operations can determine in a matter of minutes the source of the outbreak and who was exposed from staff, to equipment and people. The outbreak can then be contained and other patients protected from being infected, potentially saving lives and significant cost implication to the healthcare facility.

Reaping Connected Benefits

Better quality patient care translates into more positive healthcare outcomes via more efficient and streamlined visibility into resources and operations. With thoughtful investment in integrated technology and an optimised management platform, the critical, life-saving goals of healthcare organisations are now within reach.

Higher quality, better outcome and more cost-effective models of patient care are now possible, with an ideal mix of technology along with a focus on the healthcare workers’ workflows and patients.

Franck Riout, Healthcare Manager EMEA, Zebra Technologies

Image Credit: Rob Hyron / Shutterstock