How NHS trusts are innovating with technology and moving into the cloud

The National Health Service (NHS) is officially the 5th largest employer in the world, and it’s forever at the forefront of news and political views both in the UK and abroad. Exceeded in size only by the US and Chinese Armed forces, Walmart and MacDonald’s, the NHS is a gigantic organization consisting of around 1.5 million people.

Broken down into trusts, clinical commissioning groups (CCG’s) and special health authorities, all operating with relative independence, the rate of innovation and adoption of technology can be inconsistent to say the least.

When it comes to technology, “the cloud” is the term on everyone’s lips. This article gives an overview of how some of the most innovative and tech savvy NHS departments are keeping up with the evolution of the cloud to enhance the way they work.

Here are 3 ways that NHS professionals are using the cloud to improve efficiency and reduce cost in their departments.

1. Transitioning from email

Email overload is an issue experienced by professionals in many industries, but it’s extreme in the NHS – after all you have 1.5million colleagues. The sheer size of the NHS leads to an abundance of internal and external communications, updates and correspondences every day. Email is a thoroughly inefficient system for the volume of communication taking place – important matters can be missed or overlooked amidst an abundance of information, coupled with slow IT systems it can be hellish. Fortunately, technical innovation has provided an alternative in the form of online, cloud-based workspaces.

Let’s take an example of how the most tech savvy of NHS Trusts are using the cloud to communicate and collaborate:

A weekly budget meeting is held between executive and non-executive directors, financial representatives and a host of other healthcare professionals. Meeting minutes are taken and need to be distributed to each attendee (and anyone else involved) for review and comment. The more traditional method would be to send a document via email to all parties, who would make amendments (hopefully tracking their changes) before returning the document. This creates many different versions of the minutes, all of which are then re-emailed for agreement or further amendments. One poor fellow now has the job of collating all these comments into one final version for the record. In the meantime, tens of different versions of the same meeting minutes exist and have been shown to who knows how many people.

Innovative trusts now simply upload a single Word document to a secure online workspace. They then invite the relevant people into the group, where they can make amendments, discuss and comment on the file together. There’s no need to download files, there are no emails to exchange. Every version is visible and an archive is maintain, so nothing is accidentally lost or overwritten.

2. Mobile working

The age of smartphones, iPads and tablets has changed the expectations of the working world, which is especially true of professionals working in the NHS. So much work is done in the community, visiting different premises and collaborating with other teams virtually. These busy professionals need and expect to be able to access and work on the move.

Downloading and editing a Word document on a phone is of course possible, but it’s cumbersome and inefficient.

People in forward thinking Trusts are now simply opening an app, selecting the document they need to review or the conversation they want to join and commenting as easily as writing a text message. This syncs with all other comments made by those sharing the workspace and collaboration on the go is suddenly quick and easy.

3. Eliminating printing costs

Cost and sustainability are at the forefront of minds in the public sector, where tax payer money is at stake and media attention is hot. Electronic versions of documents are fast becoming the answer to cutting printing costs and removing waste.

Innovation means eliminating the need to print multiple paper versions of documents and always being able to access the most up-to-date version of any file needed at any time.

With every comment and communication synced in seconds to one secure online workspace, every time someone views a document they can see a real-time iteration of that file – keeping all that need to know, in the know.

Conclusion

As technology evolves the public sector can be at risk of being left behind – after all at the core of the NHS are the patients not cloud computing. However, with ever-increasing scrutiny on budgets and productivity, finding an innovative and efficient way of working is paramount to providing a better health service in 2017 and beyond.