Case study: Why technology is key to the delivery of the NHS Long-Term Plan

Wayne Miller, healthcare director at Zebra Technologies, looks at how widespread adoption of technology will improve patient care, patient safety, and the inventory and management of medicines, making it crucial to the success of the recently-published NHS Long-Term Plan

Technology such as barcoding solutions will be crucial to delivering the Government's plans for the future of NHS services

The NHS recently announced its Long Term Plan to futureproof health services.

Drawn up in conjunction with frontline staff, patient groups and national experts; it outlines how the NHS will spend the £20billion funding promised by the Prime Minister over the next 10 years.

It is expected to invest in all key departments and community projects - with technology playing a key role in this evolution.

While the finer details are worked out on spend, it is interesting to take stock of the great ways the NHS is already utilising technology to revolutionise services in the UK.

While the finer details are worked out on spend, it is interesting to take stock of the great ways the NHS is already utilising technology to revolutionise services in the UK

A number of NHS institutions have made investments to move away from time-consuming, old-fashioned technologies and paper-based records to digital systems to boost efficiency, reduce repetitive administrative tasks, increase safety, and increase the time staff have to spend with patients.

Patient safety

Patient safety is at the heart of the NHS and all investments must ensure to carry on this legacy.

When assessing its own safety strategy; Leeds Teaching Hospital asked Zebra how technology could help refine its current methods.

Zebra started by installing digital printers and barcoded wristbands as part of the Scan4Safety initiative that allows the hospital to digitally track patients through their hospital journey with a patient identification system. Not only is this safer and more reliable, but it updates all medical records digitally and accurately.

Early predictions show it has the potential to save lives and up to £1billion for the NHS over seven years.

Zebra Technologies has worked with NHS trusts across the country to deliver technology solutions that will boost services and reduce errors

Patient care first

One of the most-common complaints from physicians is that they spend too much time on administration; time they would much rather spend with patients.

This objective was one broached by Lancashire NHS Hospital Trust, which wanted to make sure its staff had more time for patient care.

The trust employed Zebra to deploy hand-held mobile computers to improve medical consumable inventory management and drive efficiencies in supply chain and asset management. It comes in the form of wristbands patients wear which get scanned every time consumables or implants are administered, reducing human error, updating all records automatically, and improving processing speed.

This solution saw the trust save £5m of balance sheet adjustments and gave physicians more time with patients.

Taking control

When the Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust decided to overhaul its inventory management system, it implemented Zebra hand-held scanners to record usage, track and trace products and automatically replenish inventory.

This integration led to a huge shift in the amount of time physicians were spending manually updating stock levels and ended up producing an 84% reduction in the time they spent engaging in stock ordering and replenishment for head and neck surgery.

The system also helped the trust eliminate stock obsolescence, minimise wastage, reduce the level of storage space used, improve stock control, and improve patient safety.

Technology’s role in healthcare is obvious. From the very beginning it has helped save lives and further advances will only improve healthcare further

Technology’s role in healthcare is obvious. From the very beginning it has helped save lives and further advances will only improve healthcare further.

However, integration is key. Hospitals and trusts must not only implement systems that will reduce administration and improve patient safety and care, but work together to create an integrated healthcare network throughout the UK. Only then would the NHS have succeeded in its 10-year plan.

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