Lynette Ousby, UK general manager for smart health informatics provider Alcidion, argues that now more than ever NHS staff must be given the headspace to focus on clinical priorities, and that technology has a big role to play.
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Health and care workers across the UK are demonstrating remarkable heroism in the face of the covid-19 crisis. But it’s important that everything possible is done to alleviate as much pressure as possible on staff at this time, so that their bravery and hard work can be focussed on the right things.
Right now, staff need to remember to carry out a huge number of tasks for the individual patients in their care. Some of this involves precise clinical judgement, but much of their cognitive burden is also consumed with dozens of routine tasks and approaches to planning care that could now be automated.
Should staff need to remember 1,000 things?
If a patient is prescribed a medicine that requires their kidney function to be checked in two days, why do staff need to remember to log into the appropriate system to order the test? Should that test be automatically ordered?
It’s just one of 1,000 different things that a clinician might need to remember to do. But we can no longer be reliant on heroes to do everything. We need to give them the headspace to focus on clinical decisions.
And that means more than simply automating tasks. We have an opportunity to automate entire care plans and pathways.
Automating plans and pathways
Let’s take covid-19 as an example. If a nurse enters into their IT system that a patient has a high temperature and persistent cough, they can automatically be given an option to order a test for coronavirus, and appropriate escalation policies can be quickly put into place.
There are opportunities to go much further and to use technology in even smarter ways to help our professionals in the current crisis and in the longer term
A care plan can also be automatically produced – scheduling orders for oxygen, and tasks like re-taking temperature, for example. These automated care plans can be produced relative to the specific patient, considering factors such as weight, height and existing conditions.
The aim should be that the clinician shouldn’t need to think about increasing or ordering oxygen, or scheduling tasks. They shouldn’t need to think about all the different components of the care pathway. They should simply need to review and approve a course of action presented to them based on best practice.
Technology providers have a responsibility
It’s positive to see that many technology providers have responded to the crisis, offering support where they can – often putting aside immediate commercial interests to tackle the problem at hand.
Our own conversations with the dozens of NHS hospitals we work with have too been focussed on solving immediate challenges. Already a new coronavirus assessment tool has gone live in our Patientrack early warning system to help nurses on the ground capture crucial information and to help hospitals as they try to identify and intervene for covid-19 patients sooner. This innovation, focussed around patient safety, has been developed by Alcidion and deployed in the NHS free of charge.
But there are opportunities to go much further and to use technology in even smarter ways to help our professionals in the current crisis and in the longer term.
And so, using our Miya platform, Alcidion is already working on automating workflow in the UK and in hospitals around the world. The urgency for this is now more pressing than ever. When our health professionals are under immense pressure, we must make the right thing to do the easy thing to do.
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