Last week saw the commencement of Digital Health’s Rewired conference for 2021. Moving to a virtual platform like all other events in the year since we saw the start of the pandemic, delegates were able to log on from the comfort of their desk chairs, listen to industry experts and play an active role in discussions surrounding the future of healthcare technology.
Topics ranged from inclusivity and diversity in the nation’s healthcare workforce, to the way in which the pandemic has forced us to adapt to a ‘new normal’. However, it was Thursday’s Digital Transformation summit, kicked off with a keynote address from Health Secretary Matt Hancock, that looked to the future of digital transformation and how the industry can respond, with some government assistance, to a post-pandemic world.
Looking retrospectively at the technology that was rocketed into application to cope with the demands of the pandemic, critics began to question the longevity of such innovation as well as whether it has a place within the NHS’ Long Term Plan outlined by the government in 2016 and reiterated by the Health Secretary in Thursday’s address. It must also be considered whether the innovations made are sustainable and whether there will be the need for them once we have established our ‘new normal’.
In many cases, innovation has continued to align with pre-pandemic goals. We previously looked at the long term plan for the NHS in a blog post earlier in the year, which you can read here for a more comprehensive view. But a key driver in the future of healthcare provision centred around giving patients the tools to provide their own care.
Putting patients in charge of their own care has been responded to by technological innovation in remote monitoring, the reinforcement of NHS resources such as the Apps Library, the 111 service and e-consultations that have been pushed as the primary contact between patients and their GPs (general practitioners). Not only do these changes empower patients to maintain a level of autonomy and enlightenment over their care but also allows local surgeries, hospitals and the NHS more broadly to effectively manage their patient flow allowing for an increase in productivity, reducing the waiting times in A&E and saving money through reducing the number of unnecessary in-patients.
This framing must also pay diligence to patients that would feel more comfortable not having to go into a surgery or hospital. In February, the NHS launched an at-home smear test campaign. The trial displayed that although it would not be the case that 100% of tests would be completed at home, there was the opportunity for those who would prefer it to have that option. This not only breaks down a barrier surrounding a taboo, yet routine and necessary procedure, but allows the test to reach more people and provide preventative care.
In the case of innovations such as these, it is clear they are sustainable. Broadening the offerings of the NHS to cope with the changes in everyday life bridges a gap between healthcare and the mass population that the pandemic only exacerbated. But how do private companies respond to the needs created by the pandemic? Let us look at WiFi SPARK.
Premiering SPARK® Media in 2020, WiFi SPARK is motivated by providing a digitally inclusive entertainment package for all patients free of charge. Having begun developing the platform prior to Coronavirus restrictions, the WiFi SPARK team was able to build upon their existing infrastructure to not only provide entertainment through TV, radio and digitised newspapers and magazines, but also provide patients with a video calling application that allows them to remain in touch with their loved ones during prolonged and deeply restricted hospital stays.
It has been proven that by providing enrichment and entertainment to patients, whether that be through a comprehensive package such as SPARK® Media or simply by providing WiFi to visitors, the stimulation and relaxation encourage recovery. During the pandemic, SPARK® Media successfully worked to keep patients entertained and connected at no cost to the end user.
As the heat of the pandemic lessens and visitation increases, we may see a decline in the need for video calling software across the board, however, it’s value to the elderly or those who may not have their own video calling device will bridge a gap between families that may not have the time to be there in person. The SPARK® Media suite presents a uniquely buildable opportunity for all.
Moving out of entertainment and looking at how SPARK® Media can streamline administrative processes, the solution manages meal ordering through an online platform, ergonomically reducing food wastage and as a result saving money. On the same platform, patients and visitors can access hospital websites, charity links or, as noted earlier, links to the NHS Apps Library and resources of the like that further encourage autonomous recovery.
The longevity of SPARK® Media is undeniable, going hand in hand with the NHS’ long-term goals as well as directly responding to the needs of patients and staff. Economically, WiFi SPARK’s range of packages and complete scalability and room for growth offer a variety of entry points that provide a solution no matter the budget.
The Health Secretary also announced on Thursday that a further 32 Trusts have been named in the second wave of the Digital Aspirant programme. This means they will receive up to £6 million over three years to deliver on digital ambitions, with a further 25 Trusts receiving £250,000 each to achieve the same goals. With funding being poured into the NHS to encourage digital innovation, it is an exciting time to see how Trusts will respond to invest in solutions that fit them.
Matt Hancock’s address at Digital Health’s Rewired conference drove a key government initiative of ‘building for the future,’ I.e., the healthcare technology innovation bred out of necessity during the pandemic must be able to stand the test of time and work with the NHS as it finds its own roadmap in the coming months and years. NHS and private sector initiatives such as SPARK® Media working hand in hand are crucial to ensure the NHS can get the best value whilst also providing exemplary levels of end-to-end care.
There is a SPARK® Media solution for every health organisation. If you would like to find your perfect fit and prioritise digital innovation for your Trust, take the quiz below.