Exploring the NHS’ Biggest Technology Challenges
Read time 4 mins
On the 5th of July this year, the NHS turned seventy-five years old. A triumph in UK history, this notable age also marked another important moment: a time for people in the UK to look back at where the service began, to consider where it stands today, and to look forward at how NHS technology needs to evolve to continue meeting our needs.
Of course, it goes without saying that there remains immense pride in how the NHS and its partners have developed services. The NHS has many enduring strengths, including universal general practice, links to science and research, and its education and training system.
However, recent years have been undeniably tough for the NHS, and years of inadequate planning and chronic under-resourcing have put immense pressure on the service and its workers.
The NHS also continues to face a myriad of other challenges – most of which were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include an aging population, lack of funding, patients with complicated health needs, issues with staff retention and morale, and communication breakdown between services.
In short, it’s fair to say that the NHS’s estate and digital infrastructure will require investment and renewal if it is to tackle the new challenges it faces and remain future proof.
A closer look at digitalisation in healthcare
We use the term ‘digitalisation‘ or ‘digital transformation’ when we talk about the integration of digital technology into our lives – but also to understand the way that technology creates or reimagines processes, including employee experiences, to meet changing markets or service demands.
Importantly, digital transformation also describes a cultural shift. It requires organisations to continually challenge the status quo, to adapt to changing trends, and provide added value and better digital experiences to service users and employees alike.
Digitalisation in healthcare speaks to several technologies that could help members of staff work smarter, improve overall productivity, and provide a foundation for flexibility and scalability for the NHS. And while conversations still need to be had about which technologies are best suited for different NHS departments, most digital transformation strategies will share commonalities associated with improving the below:
- Patient and employee experience
- Operational agility and scalability
- Improvements in culture and leadership
- Workforce enablement
- Digital technology integration
- Data privacy and security
A shift to tackle the top NHS technology challenges
Today, the opportunities offered by new technology, data, and modern forms of care present the right environment for a new, digital shift. However, to succeed the NHS will need to overcome multiple technological challenges, including:
As we all know, the NHS operates with limited funding and resources. Technology investments will need to be informed and intelligent as well as able to operate within budget and operational constraints.
Cyber security and data privacy
Naturally, as the NHS becomes more dependent on digital technologies, it becomes more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. To both protect patients and staff and meet compliance demands, ensuring the security of the NHS’ digital infrastructure with proactive cyber security and risk mitigation is crucial.
One of the NHS’s major issues when it comes to tech is supplier sprawl. By this we mean the wide range of different systems and technologies that do not work together and make it difficult to share data and information. To help NHS employees and improve patient outcomes, IT interoperability and reliability will need to be significantly improved.
Much of the NHS’ digital infrastructure is outdated and its systems are no longer supported by vendors. Unfortunately, this can lead to cyber security concerns, operational inefficiencies, and increased costs. Upgrading and replacing legacy systems will be paramount to the future of the NHS.
User education and accessibility
Not all patients have equal access to digital technologies and not all staff are trained to use new technologies effectively. To avoid inequalities in healthcare access and outcomes, it will be vital for the NHS to roll out regular user education and to offer and guide omni-channel access to healthcare services.
Hope for the future
It’s no exaggeration to say that healthcare provision is on the cusp of a data and digital technology revolution. In many respects, the NHS has already begun to take advantage of these opportunities, but it needs to go further, faster, and not underestimate the technological challenges it faces in months and years ahead.
Used effectively and wisely – and in tandem with knowledgeable, collaborative, and empathetic service providers – technology will enable the NHS to fully harness the power of digital and data and be a powerful means of enabling patients and carers to take more control of their health and wellbeing.
If you would like to discuss how Littlefish can support your digital transition efforts, feel free to get in touch through the contact button.
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