Previously we spoke about how the current pandemic has opened up a host of opportunities for the NHS. Enabling it to leverage technology to drive service improvements, as well as improvements to patient care and their experience of the NHS.
Many advocates for a more effective use of technology within the NHS must be looking at this current situation as the silver lining to the cloud, having experienced so many barriers and resistance in the past. However, there is a danger that this window of opportunity might also result in panic buying and adopting the nearest, quickest, cheapest “thing”, without doing full impact analysis. The long term effect of this would actually create even bigger headaches and hassles for end users, whether that be another system that doesn’t integrate effectively, more administration, data duplication, voids in information and so on.
What made us think of this was the personal circumstances of one of our employees. When lockdown began, they happened to be in South Africa and unable to return to the UK. Lockdown in South Africa has been far more stringent than in the UK, with a complete ban on the sale of alcohol amongst many other restrictions to normal life. On the day before lockdown began they, like many other people in South Africa, went to the nearest off-licence to stock up on a few bottles of their favourite wine, sauvignon blanc. When they got to the shop, with the clock ticking and stocks already running low, they resorted to buying wine based on what it said on the label and not based on any judge of quality.
During the course of lockdown over the last few weeks, it has become evident as to which of the wines really should have stayed on the shelves in the bottle store. Just because they had sauvignon blanc on the label did not mean they were any good! Clearly, the choice has been quantity over quality.
Right now, many trusts need to find work around’s to be able to manage in the current situation and are turning to technology to support those work arounds, for example, using technology to “plug the hole”. In addition, there is the potential for the many people who are driving the increased adoption of new technologies within the NHS to view the current situation as a limited window of opportunity to further this cause.
Undoubtedly technology can deliver great value, benefits and efficiencies, but only if the right products and systems are selected and are fit for purpose. The current “purpose” of managing through the pandemic may not be the same as the long term “purpose”, which is likely to be a hybrid way of working from what was pre-Covid and working practices during the peak of the pandemic.
However, without clearly mapping out likely working practices post-Covid, investment in technology that is not up to the job post-Covid could be a huge waste of money. Worse still, the hospitals that have invested in those technologies may take months, or more likely years, to replace those systems with ones that are fit for purpose. In the meantime, instead of the desired efficiencies, a whole range of new inefficiencies are introduced whether that be increased admin, disjointed data, data entry duplication and so on. All of which results in increasing costs, reduction in clinical effectiveness and higher risks to the consistency of care being able to be delivered to patients.
So, if you are looking to introduce new systems, our only word of caution is to check that they will be fit for purpose for whatever the “new normal” is going to be so you don’t waste a whole lot of money and lose support for the potential value that technology can bring to the NHS.