The NHS must seize the benefits of digital health, says Joel Haspel
I expound the virtues of digital health and the efficiencies digitisation is supposed to bring. I know because I’m a proponent.
The road to a digital NHS is littered with unrealised benefits. It is a road we must travel if we hope to improve outcomes with fewer available resources per citizen.
When the business case for digital transformation is easily realised through the elimination of quantifiable steps in the process, then the concept is an easy sell. Dr David Snead’s example of how PACS delivered immediate savings by eliminating the need to develop the wet film demonstrates this.
In many cases, digital can mean adding steps and changing workflow. This has been one of the challenges for electronic patient record systems, and it may well be a near term challenge for digital pathology.
But long term, the gains should outweigh any initial pain.
Smart machines driven by tomorrow’s AI algorithms offer the promise of being able to do tasks like suturing and picking out dead or cancerous tissue inside the body, as well as providing more automated diagnostics by analysing images and corresponding longitudinal patient records. These algorithms are already starting to make their way into healthcare.
Digital projects need to help relieve the pressure created by demand outstripping resources and generate an in-year return on investment. However, this near-term benefits focus is only part of the picture. Digitising today will enable humans and machines to work in collaboration and deliver higher quality and more cost efficient care tomorrow.
If we expect in the future to be able to diagnose cancer earlier, standardise cancer grading, and measure the margins of healthy tissue around tumours removed in surgery to nanometre accuracy, then we will need to rely on the AI algorithms that Dr Snead is working on today. Those algorithms can only function after we make the transformation to digital pathology.
Joel Haspel is a partner at GE Healthcare Finnamore.
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The road to a digital NHS is littered with unrealised benefits