Alan Lowe, the chief executive of healthcare collaboration platform Visionable, argues that the pivot to digital that the NHS is making in the face of the coronavirus pandemic will support service transformation in the future; but only if the right tech choices are made
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To say the pace at which the NHS is adopting digital technology has picked up as it moves to respond to covid-19 would be an understatement. A colleague said recently that we are seeing years of health tech adoption compressed into just a few weeks.
Visionable has a healthcare collaboration platform that can help in the current crisis, because it is built to support clinician to clinician and clinician to patient consultations. But as we all scramble to support teams, move outpatient clinics online, and re-tool primary care, we also need to think about the future.
The pivot to digital that we are seeing is not going to turn back; and that will open up many opportunities for service reconfiguration in the future. So, while rapid procurement decisions need to be made, my plea to those making them would be to keep one eye on your organisational and technology plans, so new tools are aligned with them.
A unique platform with a track record in the NHS
I’m an NHS manager by background. I started my career in London, where I worked in managing front line services, service improvement, and installed one of the first video conferencing systems. A decade ago, it was already clear that technology had the potential to transform the way in which clinical teams deliver care; and to make care more accessible and equitable for patients.
Delivering on that potential has been Visionable’s aim since it was founded in 2015. We have a unique collaboration platform that is specific to healthcare. We don’t just do one-to-one video calling or deliver a service over a third-party link.
Visionable enable multiple users to work from a device of their choice to share screens, audio and video feeds – that might range from a real-time CT image to a camera in someone’s ear or throat. It’s already in use in the NHS and it’s already transforming care.
One of our first clients was the East of England stroke service. Patients who are taken into hospital out-of-hours have access to a stroke consultant through a Visionable link; with a dramatic impact on the time it takes to deliver thrombolysis.
Since then, our technology has been deployed to support multi-disciplinary team meetings, built into a connected ambulance solution, and used for virtual clinics that connect clinicians with patients; with all the records, diagnostics and imaging they need at their fingertips.
Change now should mean transformation in the fututre
So, Visionable is ready to scale fast in the face of the covid-19 outbreak. Our virtual clinic can reduce demand on stretched services, avoid travel, and cut unnecessary contact between clinicians and patients.
However, Visionable is also ready for the future. As my colleague also noted, until now NHS organisations have tended to do one thing, one way, for one patient at a time. The future lies with integrated care services that enable clinicians to do different things in different ways; to send a result notification to one patient and to set up a programme of intensive monitoring and support for another.
To do that, healthcare economies will need a technology ecosystem in which different IT systems can plug and play, so clinicians have both the information and communications tools they need to make the right decisions for patients, while giving them new tools to manage their own health.
Move fast, but think strategically
The danger in the current situation is that organisations could buy technology that does not fit within an ecosystem approach. We could have dozens of systems being used for video consultations. Services being deployed that cannot integrate with electronic patient record systems, scanners or devices.
Hence, my plea. NHS managers, their IT and clinical teams need to move with speed to find the health tech that will help them to cope with covid-19; but not with so much haste that they cannot use the pivot to digital working that is being made now to support transformation in the future.