The NHS needs to embrace wearable technology and big data, says NHS CIO

Tracey Scotter likes to imagine a world where the National Health Service (NHS) embraces technology to provide truly personalised care to patients.

Speaking at Computerworld UK and CIO UK's Agenda 16 event, organised in association with Dell, Scotter stated her belief that once the NHS embraces wearable tech and big data “the use of technology and wearables is going to play a big part in getting people to own their own health […] Then healthcare will become a lot more targeted”.

Gone will be the days where the doctors take your word for it when you say you have no more than five units of alcohol a week and go for a run every other day.

The NHS will have to change drastically to reach this point though. As Scotter told CIO last year: “There are still huge silos of data, which are often not shared at all, due to technology constraints, governance rules that have not kept pace with technology capability, or lack of trust and cooperation between different providers. A disruptive technology in healthcare can simply be the introduction of a system that allows the sharing of data.”

By embracing and opening up data Scotter sees an NHS where junior doctors can turn to data, instead of opinions, in order to make “data driven decisions,” a mantra she repeats several times during her keynote.

Patient Focus

Scotter refers directly to the fact that her hospitals cancel 50 percent of planned operations to accommodate unplanned operations due to “poor planning and bad logistics behind this, so we’re constantly changing our schedules.” She eventually asked the board: “Would you fly with us if we were an airline?”

The main concern within the NHS, and the biggest blocker to true innovation according to Scotter, is hiding behind security and regulation concerns.

“The reason it’s quite difficult for the NHS to communicate with people and for us to communicate with you is because we are very closed in the culture,” Scotter says, “there’s a whole wealth of security [concerns] and I do think that’s important, but it’s not cyber security, we’ve got really old fashioned security that basically thinks that paper is safer than anything electronic.”

Scotter has quite the task ahead of her in terms of education staff at her hospitals about the security of online data.

There are still one million faxes sent within her organisation a year because: “Some staff are still concerned about email not being safe.”

As online services supersede telehealth Scotter believes: “There’s so much of that which we could do but it doesn’t happen at all and I’m struggling to work out why. The clinicians hide behind regulation, they ask how you would know you are really talking to a doctor, that kind of thing. My prediction is that most teenagers today are not going to want to go to a doctors surgery, they’ll just do something online.”

If the innovation doesn’t come from within Scotter thinks the big tech companies will step in and take it out of their hands, as the modern consumer is more comfortable using online services: “NHS and healthcare need to notice that these big tech companies have healthcare in their sights and see the potential in the market.”

Transferrable skills

The NHS certainly is ripe for a culture change around technology, as Scotter says: “In the NHS we’re not patient focused at all, but we say we are.”

Scotter hones in on junior doctors, who are more comfortable using technology at work: “Obviously the younger ones aren’t scared of technology. They also know the simple things like physically using a tablet or a mobile while on the move, some people still struggle with that on things like a ward round.”

“Innovation used to be top down, now it’s from the ground up. Doctors are sending images using Dropbox and just doing it, they have the capability and they just use it.”


Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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