How to implement tech into your NHS trust
The NHS is in crisis – and it needs our help.
We’ve all heard horror stories about patients left in corridors, nurses stretched to breaking point, and unprecedented data leaks. Lack of funding is obviously a big problem – but money alone won’t cure the NHS. The issue is efficiency – or lack thereof.
The NHS is a huge, complex organisation, but it's run on slow, outdated systems that are hugely inefficient. Information is hard to find, software is difficult to use, and the systems used in different hospitals don’t talk to each other, so records need to be printed and posted.
Slow systems may not sound like a big deal, but technology impacts how every department works on a day-to-day basis. And the right technology is out there. Chatbots are being used by trusts in London and Liverpool to triage patients, and scannable wristbands are being trialled at Leeds Teaching Hospital. NHS Choices has been a huge success too – more than 20 million people use it every month! But this is the tip of the iceberg. Technology can also be used to diagnose patients... share data... increase productivity and reduce costs... train members of staff... and improve patient care. The benefits of tech are clear, it’s just putting it into practice that’s a problem.
What are the barriers to implementing tech?
Despite knowing about the huge benefits it can bring, NHS trusts are very reluctant to introduce new technology. Trusts don’t have spare cash lying around to invest in tech when front-line services are under so much pressure. There have also been many examples in the past where tech initiatives have flopped, costing the NHS millions. The worst case was in 2013, when the NHS abandoned their proposed patient record system – the biggest civilian IT system in the world – costing UK taxpayers over £12 billion!
Mistakes like these have created a culture of technophobia in the NHS. But these staff aren’t technophobes outside of work – they're normal people with Amazon Prime and Netflix and iPhones. They’re tech savvy, but they simply don’t trust the NHS systems and no one wants to take the risk and introduce new ones. The consequences of introducing a system that fails is just too much – potentially costing people’s lives as well as money.
So how do you go about making change?
It’s the staff on the ground that can really make a difference. Analyse what technology works for your staff and what doesn’t, then reach out to other trusts to see what they think. When you’ve got all the information you need, research what type of technology is out there and weigh up the pros and cons; risks and benefits. Next, you need to pitch your proposal to the people at the top – and to do this, you’ll need a business case. A business case sums up all the information senior leadership needs to know about your project – the duration, cost, benefits, risks and opportunities – so they can make an informed decision.
Business cases can be tricky to write, so we’ve created a template for you. Just fill in the details of your proposal and organisation, and you’re good to go!