It has been 65 years since the birth of the NHS. Since its inception, the NHS has been at the forefront of healthcare provision in the UK. Along its 65-year journey, the NHS has undergone many changes, both in the provision of healthcare and in the way it treats patients whilst remaining true to Bevan's initial vision.
Dedicating time to patient care is as taxing now as it was all those years ago. A recent survey from the Royal College of Nursing highlighted that nurses spend a staggering 2.5 million hours per week on paperwork. In an aim to reduce this, earlier this year, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a goal that the NHS would become fully digitised by 2018. A key part of dedicating more time to care is allowing clinicians and nurses to remain mobile and digitise all information at patients' bedside, instead of wandering between the ward and the office to input information.
While David Cameron has pledged £100m to the NHS to accelerate the adoption of mobile technology to reduce the amount of red tape and improve the time spent on patient care, it doesn't mean that Trusts should plan to automatically splash out on the fanciest gadgets. Any new technology acquisition should be chosen on the basis of how easy it is to implement, how much bespoke development is required, when the ROI can be achieved and most importantly how much time it frees up to dedicate to patient care.
One of the major concerns with introducing new technologies is the associated capital, training and operational costs, along with issues of effectiveness and usability. A study by industry analysts Quocirca suggests that technology can sometimes be thrown at problems in the healthcare sector without fully considering and understanding of the underlying processes or the needs of the clinicians and carers.
Where laptops, tablets and smartphones have a high penetration in the healthcare sector, it can be tricky to input single-handedly or while standing up, difficult to clean, easily damaged and prone to theft and loss. All of this hinders their effective use and drives costs upwards.
Quality of patient care is the NHS's top priority, and correctly capturing patient data digitally is critical to that as typified by Cameron's pledge. The problem is that most healthcare processes today are still paper-based, due to the risk to the accuracy and quality of patient care involved in adopting complicated data capture tools such as laptops or tablet PCs, and lack of time to familiarise with new technology. Due to these factors, an update to the most traditional of input devices - the simple pen - has been generating traction.
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