The revolution will be digitised: NHS floats idea for wearables in healthcare
The NHS is unveiling plans to increase Wi-Fi adoption and tentatively examine the usage of wearable devices to monitor patients in hospital.
The proposals, announced following the Personalised Health and Care 2020 blueprint document published last November, mark “a key moment in the journey to making technology work for patients”, according to Britain’s healthcare service.
According to the NHS, the need for more expansive Wi-Fi is an important consideration. Currently, up to 70% of a junior doctor’s day is spent tangled up in admin. The National Information Board (NIB), chaired by NHS England national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey, is looking into the possibility of turning the entire NHS estate into a free Wi-Fi zone. Not only would it make staff more productive, it would ease patients’ boredom.
Yet it’s the announcement of consideration for wearables that is most fascinating. Plenty of wearable devices, from Fitbit to Jawbone, can track fitness levels and monitor health issues. It’s a lucrative market to play in; Juniper Research argues annual revenues from connected healthcare and fitness services will tip $2 billion by 2019. The NHS gives the example of diabetic patients; over a fifth will have experienced a “largely avoidable” hypoglycaemic episode while in hospital, which wearable devices will sort out.
Over the past 12 months, the NHS has overseen a digital change in its services, with 97% of GP practices offering patients the opportunity to book appointments, order prescriptions and view a summary of their medical records online. Kelsey argues “better use of technology” can push this promising start much further.
Andy Williams, chief executive of HSCIC (Health and Social Care Information Centre), said: “The proposals announced today are a major step forward in using technology, data and information to transform the delivery of England’s health and social care services.”
On the IT front it’s not entirely been plain sailing for the NHS and HSCIC, however; its NHS e-referral hospital appointment booking service, launched earlier this week, has already hit the skids. The launch went ahead despite there being more than 30 known issues with the system. Michael Allen, solutions VP EMEA at Dynatrace, said: “It is much more expensive to fix application problems in the field, rather than in the testing environment – not to mention creating more frustration for customers and embarrassment for the organisations responsible.
“I’m not sure why the public has been used as guinea pigs in this instance, but ensuring that applications are thoroughly tested and debugged, with any issues ironed out before launch, is just common sense,” he added.
Hopefully when the time comes for mainstream wearable adoption in the NHS, the launch process will go a little more smoothly.
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