Technology, health and care

This morning I continued my “drill down” in to local health and care services to talk with staff in Cwm Taf about the way technology is changing the services that are provided to patients and staff. I have often read about the impact of changing technologies and it was useful to see some practical local examples that can enhance patient experience and boost the effectiveness of services. In July, at the time of the NHS 70 celebrations BBC Wales News wrote this general piece about the potential impacts of technology over the next 30 years including AI, robotics, remote consultations, medical records on apps, communications, medicines and so forth. In reality some of these things are happening now, but I suspect we don’t yet know the full impact due to the pace of change in technologies.

It was also interesting to read about developments like “smart bandages – this intelligent bandage continuously monitors chronic wounds and delivers targeted drugs to speed up the healing process”, or emerging technology like “Robo-bots” which means “nurses will be assisted by smart robots who will take on a third of the current workload issues which faces NHS staff”. Wherever this journey eventually takes us I am somehow reminded of the old TV series “Tomorrow’s World” and what seemed fanciful back then, is in fact often now a reality today, or even appears outdated!.

The first conversation I had today was about an emerging electronic healthcare administration service (CHAI stands for Connected Healthcare Administration Interface) which has been piloted in paediatric services at Cwm Taf and after this initial evaluation it is intended that it will ‘go live’ and then be extended across other service areas. From the picture below (which are not real records!) you can see that CHAI is capturing patient data via ipads/tablets information and records that will then be available across the system, which is important in a patients pathway across our NHS. The online system can also prioritise patient information and generate prompts and reminders about treatments.

 

As the system is held in online it can also prompt queries of staff about possible conditions. In the photo above the system prompts staff to think about possible cases of Sepsis, this caught my eye as being a useful supplement to professional observation.

The system allows the documentation of admissions, discharges, transfers, assessments and observations and stores care plans and replace paper records. Following pilot, and approval for the Welsh Clinical Portal, then the system will be rolled out. I welcome this as one of the issues I have picked up during my review is patients moving between hospitals/LHBs for services and the new staff they meet not being up to speed on their medical history. This type of initiative could help change that experience. The system also allows for monitoring and managing the quality of care, as records can be checked by others, even those not on the ward/site.  My thanks to Helen and Alan for talking to me about this development.

What types of barriers might exist for such changes? Well any such change needs the active support of staff as they move from paper records to electronic records. It takes time to develop and adapt systems, but I feel there must be a big win in terms of effectiveness. In a recent report by The Health Foundation, IFS, King’s Fund and Nuffied Trust  they stated:

“Technology has the potential to deliver significant savings for the NHS but the service does not have a strong track record in implementing it at a scale and needs to get better at assessing the benefits, feasibility and challenge of implementing new technology”, and “New technology could fundamentally change the way that NHS staff work – in some cases requiring entirely new roles to be created. The impact of these changes should not be underestimated”.

The second conversation I had today was about BABI and BadgerNet baby diary, both based in the maternity services. BABI helps new Mums bond with their new-borns. Previously Mums who were separated from their babies and unable to visit the neonatal unit would rely on a family member to tell them how their baby was progressing. Now a newly designed ipad cart can be used to give the Mum ‘face time’ and receive updates on baby’s progress.

BadgerNet baby diary has been designed to provide parents/guardians and their family and friends with secure, real time access to photos of their baby during their baby’s stay in a neonatal unit.

My thanks to Staff Nurse Leona Coleman who was a passionate advocate of how both changes are improving the quality of the experience.

I was also told by Consultant neonatal paediatrician Iyad Al-Muzaffar about how musical therapy is being introduced to baby incubators to help improve the care of babies. These technologies will be used in the new maternity services opening in Prince Charles next Spring.

 

 

It is clear that technology is, and will continue to, impact on our NHS and Care systems in a wide variety of ways. Some changes will present financial challenges, others will improve effectiveness and quality of care. In all scenarios it is clear to me that our NHS and care systems will require the ‘future thinkers’ who can identify the technologies, opportunities and help deliver the changes.

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