Is Digitization the Main Innovation Obstacle Facing the NHS?


The NHS has undergone rapid developments led by science, research, and the ever-growing demands of patients. There is now a higher prevalence of diseases and co-morbidities than ever before, pushing science and medicine to their limits. The NHS strives to be a service that delivers high-quality care to literally millions of people but digitizing it has become somewhat of an innovation obstacle for the NHS.

Still, there have been huge changes in recent years, resulting in a direct impact on patient care. Let’s explore the advancements and current limitations.

The Overwhelming Obstacles For Digitising The NHS

The National Audit Office released a report on the digital transformation across the NHS that highlights the inherent obstacles standing in the way of digitization. They explored the lack of funding; the need for more robust governance and generally highlighted how the track record for the digital transformation in the NHS has been poor for the last two decades.

The need for large-scale process and behavioral change is presenting too much of a challenge for the NHS. Still, there have been some substantial advancements towards digitizing the NHS that we will explore below.

Patient Care Tools and Devices

The NHS constantly strives for innovation, by spurring change from within or adopting and embracing from the outside- and in most respects, it succeeds. Click here and you’ll see how surgical equipment innovation has helped in the operating room. Or, follow this link to learn about robotics innovation that has helped save countless lives.

Digitization innovation, however, is miles behind. Still, some new tools are being introduced to hospitals in the UK that aim to improve patient care and make the lives of healthcare professionals easier – such as the VitalPacs. It’s a software application downloaded onto iPods that are stored on hospital wards. These are gradually replacing the standard paper PEWS and NEWS charts – and highlight strides towards innovation and digitization.

Even though they have been met with some resistance from old-school staff who prefer paper, the system aims to make more accurate recordings and improve patient care.

Online Services

It’s the online services that have perhaps broken down the digital barrier to innovation that had plagued the NHS. Thanks to the pandemic, online services had no choice but to spring into action, especially in GP practices. That signaled the beginning of a new era of GP appointments and, in turn, hospital appointments. Professionals realized they could effectively communicate, examine, and diagnose patients without needing to attend the practice.

That’s then transpiring onto hospital wards; that are now looking to explore virtual ward rounds. Other online services include ordering prescriptions and booking hospital appointments. The aim is to reduce patient contact. That should prevent infections from spreading from patient to patient, save time, and help support patients in the community.

It’s no secret that digitization is still one of the most prominent obstacles to innovation in the NHS. Everything from changing human behavior to funding prevents the NHS from taking the strides forwards that it needs to. Even though there are some successful digital applications, there’s still a long way to go.

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