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Business Case for Digitisation in Healthcare

10th September 2019

Financial incentives offered by the government over the next 7 years amount to £20billion extra for hospitals in England. The money is unlocked by hitting targets and represents one of the major factors for administrators to take into account when considering the business case for digitisation.

Hard currency is only one part of the business-case jigsaw however, the other pieces are potentially dramatic savings in multiple areas of business, increased staff efficiency and retention, improved patient outcomes and better experiences of care all around.

Background and Current Position

The reduced growth in funding over the last 10 years has coincided with a steady increase in demand for services. The cost to deliver those services has gone up, creating more pressure in an already highly-pressured environment.

Current stress symptoms within the NHS include:

  • Staff shortages – commonplace throughout the UK. There are more than 100,000 vacancies in hospitals including 40,000 nurse vacancies
  • £960million overspend in year 2017/18
  • Winter crisis of 2018 still impacting services at time of publication (Sept 2019)
  • Vulnerability to Cyber-attacks increasing despite extra investment following the WannaCry attack of 2017

‘Breaking Point’ is a term often used in reference to the NHS but at the moment it is certainly more true than ever before. Problems retaining talented and skilled staff has always been an issue, but as the UK’s population grows and as people are living longer, demand is only heading in one direction: up. Without decisive action soon, a broken NHS is all but a certainty.

The NHS Long Term Plan

The government has recognised the problems faced and has put increased funding on the table. In response, the NHS has compiled and published the NHS Long Term Plan that should unlock the extra cash.

The plan maintains a responsible eye on where money is to be spent. Priorities are clearly stated and spending increases in those areas are set out. Where the plan seeks to make savings it does so in a way that does not compromise quality and this is where digital services are cited as a viable means of achieving those aims.

Digital Benefits

A theme running through the Long Term Plan is digitalisation. As alluded to above, this should not be seen as merely something hospitals have to do in order to tick a box when applying for the extra money from the government. Embracing digital makes sound business sense for healthcare even without government incentives being offered.

Consider the following points from a cost-saving and target-meeting point of view:

Patient Digital Access – remote access to one’s own medical record with the ability to request prescriptions and make appointments. Benefits include reduced clerical and admin pressure, fewer ‘routine’ appointments required and less demand experienced by doctors.

Smartphone App –  The modern way for patients to access services digitally. It can enable patients to:

  • Check-in to appointments or into A+E triage before even arriving at the hospital, saving clerical and admin resource requirements
  • See waiting room times from home – enabling an informed decision to be made about attendance at A+E
  • Direct access to 111 services, Clinical Assessment Services and other trusted advice sources in various languages and with WCAG compliance.
  • Navigate to and around health facilities & pay for parking electronically.
  • Communicate effectively with healthcare providers

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – numerous functions of healthcare and medicine could be complemented by effective use of AI. Diagnosis of disease, treatment insights or any action that requires decision-making based on large amounts of data and complex factors.

Interconnectivity – going digital means that a patient’s GP, hospital and smartphone are all connected and speaking the same language. This means that appointments are sent directly to the patient’s calendar with reminders scheduled at prior intervals prompting confirmation. It also means important files sent between different health institutions are not reliant on couriers and they cannot be mislabeled with the wrong patient’s details.

The future

There is a lot of excitement within the healthcare sector at the moment. Politicians, senior leaders in the NHS and the businesses that supply to healthcare specialists are all enthusiastic about the potential of the digital transformation.

The use of artificial intelligence for the type of actions discussed above have been the subject of many articles of commentary and opinion. The general consensus of qualified commentators is that if it can be shown to be reliable, the potential cost savings and service improvements in medicine and healthcare will be substantial. Faster diagnosis improved researched practices and more efficient usage of staff are just a few potential benefits for hospitals.

AI could also be employed in the business side of the administration, assisting decision making around procurement, cost-benefit analysis of research proposals and resource allocation across departments factoring seasonal demand, emerging trends and legal requirements.

All this is possible in the digital age but it is predicated on getting the basics right and building on solid foundations with the right level of investment. Once the digital foundations of the healthcare system are laid correctly, the architecture of a new, ultra-efficient data system can be built.

If you’re looking to introduce a healthcare portal to digitise your organisation please schedule some time to discuss what options you have available.

 

 

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