The health sector and NHS have a long standing history of tackling problems; pay, working hours, waiting times and technology barriers.
Technology is transforming the sector and system in more ways than you could ever imagine.
How we use the system today is taken for granted, naturally, and we use technology without appreciating the benefits. Ignorance to the technology thriving in the health sector could simply be because we live and breathe it today, compared to 20 years ago.
There was a time when patients couldn’t phone for an appointment, let alone have their symptoms diagnosed by a robot. But that’s the 21st century developments for you.
Everything has moved digital. From handheld devices, to the internet, digital access and technology has changed just about everything.
It wasn’t until 1998 that NHS Direct was launched, that gave the NHS a telephone service. Something so simple is taken for granted by the population. Almost 20 years later, digital technology has developed much further, allowing patients to use online data systems to book appointments and access their patient data. In GP surgeries, digital check-in systems are now used to allow patients to register themselves as arrived and allow receptionists to man the phones and help other patients waiting.
Another service being promoted to patients is the use of paperless prescription services. Introduced in 2009, the system was made to make it easier for patients to order and collect their prescriptions by ordering online then picking up from their local pharmacy without seeing a doctor. This benefits both the patient and GP by shortening the process and going from source to product and cutting down appointments for GPs, allowing them to see patients with bigger needs.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Seemingly moving into just about every sector, product and process you can think of AI is becoming a popular face in the healthcare sector.
AI uses the data provided to find the best solution to benefit the user, in this case a patient. A massive factor benefitting the health sector is the accuracy and efficiency of AI as a service. IBM and Google have both developed AI systems, Watson and Google DeepMind respectively.
IBM Watson for Oncology, works similarly to a supercomputer that sifts through all accessible information on the web to recommend the best treatment for the patient. Watson provides benefits for Doctors such as saving them time to diagnose patients and get the most accurate analysis. All actions are quick, accurate and evidence based, and it’s even able to recognise major illnesses at crucial times.
The Google DeepMind system created an alert app called ‘Streams’ through the use of AI. The app used the DeepMind system to quickly review test results and if an abnormality occurs a message will be sent, via smartphone, to the correct clinician. The app ensures patients get from test to treatment as quickly and efficiently as possible. Using AI helps GPs by saving them time to get patients to the correct treatment.
Among the many developments in technology, Surface is one of the most hands on devices transforming the health sector.
From training to diagnosing, Surface has transformed the sector for the better. Doctors of the future are using Surface Hub to train and teach new Doctors. On the other end of the spectrum, the Surface tablet allows Nurses and GPs to illustrate patients’ diagnosis and display where treatment may be needed or outline the problem.
Videography is utilised to make live and accurate reports of patients by recording their progress physically and decide what further treatment is necessary. Finally, Surface saves staff time, paper and storage space by using the touch screen to sign documents.
Of course, it comes without saying that cloud technology has been introduced to the health sector. It’s used by the majority of the population and now, the health sector is using it to the full advantage to benefit the system.
The Cloud allows GPs, Nurses and Hospitals to store all patient data in the cloud which allows for a much more organised and efficient data system.
Data being stored in the cloud allows Doctors to have a single access point to patient information,making it easier to store and share details, wherever they are. As well as ease of access, the use of the cloud allows healthcare analysts to have better access to more current data allowing them to return better quality data to organisations.
This technology innovation benefits patient because it means their data can be retrieved, anywhere they go. Another benefit for patients is it allows more time for Doctors to recommend care and hep the patient, than waiting for multiple Doctors to assess and send results via documentation.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Step into the eyes of the future, virtual reality is heading towards the waiting room. Along with Microsoft Surface, the use of VR is training Doctors and Nurses. Using low-cost VR equipment teaches staff anatomy and practice operations. Being sub-merged into a realistic theatre scenario, staff practices techniques for future use in the operating theatre. Practically carrying out a procedure is far more beneficial to a Doctor/Nurse than watching a vieo demonstration in a crowded room, at risk of being distracted.
The VR controller provides controllable, repetitive scenarios with instant feedback giving a high quality teaching and training system to future surgeons and GPs.
Google Cardboard is another example of VR benefiting our lives after saving a baby’s life. Using VR to map baby Teegan’s heart, innovative Doctor’s used 360-degree imagery to plan the surgery that saved her life.
Technology is ever-changing and developing quicker than we can blink, but the healthcare system is hugely benefitting from the changes that have been invested for both staff and patients. To get the most out of the technology patients need to embrace the change and trust it is all invested for the best.