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Seventy years ago, the National Health Service (NHS) was created to provide free, quality healthcare for all, regardless of wealth.
Yet in the 21st century, our NHS itself needs a lifeline. In 2019, to ensure that healthcare is provided 24 hours a day requires NHS staff to work long hours caring for their patients whilst providing complex care. As a result, NHS staff are often over-worked and record-breaking rates of mental ill- health (surveys show that NHS staff especially nurses are completely worn out and retire by the early age of 55) have been reported, including suicidal thoughts among our overworked NHS employees, wounding our healthcare system.
This mountain of problems poses the question- how can our health care system be treated?
The answer lies to this lies in effective implementation of technology.
Infamously long hours waiting in crowded corridors and reports of mistakes and accidents have led to a decline in confidence among patients and health-care workers alike. Meanwhile, the results of recent research supply compelling evidence that methods such as online repeat prescriptions, telemedicine, apps, trackers and monitors have been introduced successfully.
For instance pharmacies and places like Boots are permitted to prescribe medicines to patients with slight fevers; combating the problem of long queues at GP’s. Last year in early March, almost 93% of GPs were being praised for adapting to online appointments to defeat notoriously long waiting hours. To illustrate this, the Pennine Care NHS foundation trust used technology to provide effective communication through text messaging to support the self- management of wound infection while backing this up with traditional nursing care.
Patient appointments were reduced by 53 per cent with “100 per cent patient satisfaction”. The Secretary of Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has also introduced patient barcodes and digital prescriptions in the hope of promoting technical use.
Additionally, modern means of efficient training among medical students is supported by the use of technology. For example the introduction of Versius, a small surgical machine that completely refines the way keyhole procedures are being performed, maximises the surgeries efficiency, minimises pain and also ensures a speedy recovery for the patient. Mastering the skill of laparoscopic suturing usually takes a long time for medical students to reach a professional standard. In comparison, the Versius can be learnt in a couple of minutes and be used to conduct a variety of operations highlighting the overall benefits of technology in improving quality staff training.
Despite such training, demand exceeds supply; there are now fewer Scottish-born medical students studying in Scotland than ever before. This must surely impact on the sustainability of our NHS and our ability to care for an ever- ageing population. An improved computerised health care isn’t entirely based on newly revised equipment but is backed by a positive, productive team working in a professional manner. Healthy, happy staff will encourage a job well done and result in the smooth running of effective health care.
Upgrading technology within the NHS will ensure a positive improvement in NHS working conditions and also importantly upgrade patient care. Indeed earlier this year Theresa May advised the NHS to transform the health system by embracing current technical advancements. The Prime Minister has even proposed an annual increase of ?25 billion by 2023 to boost technology usage within the NHS. Hospitals therefore need to keep up with advancing technology in order for the successful implementation of the latest technology. Perhaps this will allow NHS to be less dependent on staff to carry out immense workload instead technology will allow staff to take regular breaks as well as stay motivated, working for a lasting benefit. Thus technology saving the day, again.
Having said that, current Brexit issues means the NHS is finding it painfully difficult to splurge their already tight budget on technical advances that will aid the system. Some will argue that Brexit will only add to the costs and that ultimately the tax payer will suffer. But health is wealth; there shouldn’t be any cutbacks when it comes to treatments and saving lives. Matt Hancock had revealed that ?75 million would finance a more computerised system around clinics which will cut costs in the long run as well as a whopping ?412 million to boost technological innovation in the hospital. However, despite this funding and development, the NHS is still failing to take full advantage of the single defining theme of our era: ‘technology’.
Along with the benefits of technology in improving the health of NHS employees, the benefits of standardised digital records (which are accessible in whichever healthcare area the patient is being care for), is hugely positive. In the past, written records were easily misplaced, with damaging effects on patients. Revolutionising patient documentation through digital records therefore has changed healthcare within the NHS for the better. Furthermore, the potential exists to enrich the health system further with new viewpoints and solutions; reconstructing the NHS to incorporate the latest technological advances in the quest for quality- driven health care.
However proper management of digital records is a constant struggle for the NHS and perhaps this should be the first to be resolved; and Matt Hancock is certain about the change he will make with technology in the NHS. He promises Britain that the mistakes of his former colleagues would not be repeated. Investing in expensive equipment will not automatically improve data management but rather the way data is used. In an article Hancock says the best solution is to have a set target to increase usage of technology across all hospitals and then allow members collate what method best fits to polish digital data management. Innovating inadequate data handling schemes through technology will not entirely end all problems but is the first steps in making improvements. Training staff to manoeuvre such IT tasks will take the time and progress will not immediately be recognised but it will ensure the NHS is on the road to progress.
Technology still has a key role to play in ensuring that important messages about a healthy lifestyle make it into the mind of the public. There are many ways that technology can be used to educate and inform. Social media, text messages, health monitoring apps and numerous other technological advances can be used to get the message across to large sections of society but can technology really heal the NHS?
Having reviewed the evidence to date, harnessing technology will be the key to rejuvenating the NHS and making it a viable system in a future that will look very different from now. There is no doubt that the use of technology will heighten and a robotic world will emerge faster than an infection in an untreated wound. The NHS is in a race against time to try and save as many lives as possible but first maybe tend to save their own crisis. Hence investing in technology will benefit the current status of the NHS by ensuring the population is kept fit and healthy in a timely manner through the use of innovative technology.
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