The recent announcement by the British Red Cross that it deployed emergency aid to the NHS in response to a “humanitarian crisis” has unsurprisingly proven extremely controversial.
Less widely reported is the fact that the Red Cross has actually been working with the NHS for a number of years on a contract basis – with trusts and local authorities funding its work to help relieve key pressure points on the NHS.
Simply put, NHS administrators need to find innovative solutions to help them to keep it going. While any mention of stepping up ICT expenditure for the NHS tends to generate its own set of headlines, the increasing pressures of an ageing and growing population mean technology is going to have to take a greater weight in future if the service is going to survive.
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For instance, advances in video technology and telemedicine are driving dramatic improvements in healthcare, from reducing hospital admissions through virtual consultation and effective patient education, through enabling high-quality care in remote and underserved areas, to improving coordination among healthcare teams, improving clinician training, and streamlining administration.
Video and telemedicine solutions allow specialists to see more patients than is possible through face-to-face visits and benefit from a reliable source of referrals when in-person care is required.
For local health care centres in remote and underserved areas, they can connect to specialists, assessment teams and other providers via video. And video can also connect physicians together to collaborate on complex cases, share the results with peers, and offer remote training and mentoring without taking precious time out of their demanding schedules for travel.
However, making video a viable solution, assumes the right resources can be identified and engaged in these consultations at the right time. This can be challenging considering such a large, dispersed and often mobile workforce.
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And, in the case of an emergency, when time is of the essence, it’s critical to find the right resources and bring them together quickly and effectively, providing the right communication and collaboration capabilities to help them make decisions and take action faster.
Fortunately, the wider availability of quality Broadband services, either through hospital WiFi or a patient’s home WiFi, or also through the expanding mobile 4G and soon 5G networks, the ability to have great quality, high definition video communications has become more attainable than ever.
Although some challenges still exist on cross-industry acceptance and adoption of interoperable, efficient video standards, more vendors are moving into line with video-standards such as WebRTC, already adopted by Avaya, that will boost the potential and provisioning of Telemedicine services.
But video isn’t going to solve all the problems the NHS is facing. Even if video conferencing enables doctors to use their time more effectively, the NHS is still facing a shortage of medical staff. The government is pressuring doctors to agree to work longer hours, but again there’s only so many doctors to go around.
Could artificial intelligence (AI) provide an answer here? A chatbot may never replace a consultation in your doctor’s surgery but it could help to screen calls, providing a non-emergency medical triage service.
As with other chatbot services, the call can always be handed over to a (human) specialist advisor, or the patient could be encourage to contact their GP directly.
At Avaya, it is felt that there is huge potential to leverage the machine-learning capabilities of our own AI solution in healthcare, combined with social media services such as Twitter or Facebook, in order to help alleviate the challenges with patient appointment scheduling, appointment reminders and rescheduling – and potentially basic triage services too.
So, for any politicians or healthcare administrators out there, if you really want to save the NHS then you need to get creative with how you deploy technology. The pressure on the service is only going to increase, so it needs to be relieved.
Sourced by Natalie Keightley, senior manager, healthcare solutions marketing, Avaya