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MedTech Improving Healthcare Efficiency

As well as benefitting staff workflows, technology also has the potential to reduce the amount of time a patient stays in hospital and prevent unnecessary readmissions.

By embracing technology to improve healthcare workflows and reduce pressures on staff, patients will ultimately have better care and the UK can make strides towards realising its vision of being a tech superpower.

The digital technologies that can ease the day-to-day bottlenecks and challenges in healthcare environments include virtual wards, digital health checks, healthcare scanners, clinical communication apps and process automation - as well as flagship technologies such as surgical robots.

End-to-end Process Automation

One key way that technology developers and Medtech organisations can help improve healthcare efficiency and digitalise the healthcare industry is by supporting end-to-end process automation. 

By providing clinical flow solutions, or workflow solutions that can drive efficiency through the process, nurses and healthcare providers can sort through data logically and more easily categorise information. They're also able to make smarter decisions faster and more efficiently across their daily operations in the hospital. This relies on complete connectivity between systems, irrespective of provider.

Acute Virtual Wards

One of the most significant obstacles hospitals face is a ward at full capacity. 

The developing capabilities of modern IoT devices mean that patients can be equipped with simple, non-intrusive medical devices and discharged from hospital into a Virtual Ward.

These devices allow patients to be tracked by a ‘Command Centre’, where clinicians and algorithms dynamically determine requirements. 

The Acute Virtual Ward sees hospital-grade continuous monitoring medical devices, such as chest patches, linked to Wi-Fi and mobile data networks, delivering a constant stream of IoT signals that feed into a hospital’s Command Centre.

Dedicated teams of clinicians in the Command Centres are directed to the cases that require most attention. The quality of data generated means clinicians can achieve a never-before-seen understanding of patient needs, but crucially without increasing workloads. Meanwhile hospital Electronic Patient Record systems or GP IT systems are updated automatically with periodic summaries of patients’ conditions.

This combination of automation and process management enables Command Centre clinicians to manage large patient populations with unheralded efficiency.

Connected devices and Command Centres could just change the rules of a very old game.

Virtual Reality

Meanwhile other virtual concepts, such as virtual waiting rooms that manage demand into Emergency Departments and Primary Care, or technology that delivers remote pre-operative assessments and post-operative follow-up consultations, are either emerging or already being applied.

Digital Health Checks

The new digital health check will see patients asked to fill in an online questionnaire, including details of their height and weight, while they will also be encouraged get their blood and cholesterol levels tested. The results will be made available online, with people then given personalised advice or, if necessary, referred to a GP.

The government aims to deliver one million of the online check-ups in the first four years of the scheme, which will be rolled out across England from next spring.

British Heart Foundation medical director, Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, said: "Millions of people in England are living with conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol that, if left untreated, significantly increase the risk of a potentially deadly heart attack or stroke.

"This initiative will help to reach more people and encourage them to get their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked so that, where necessary, healthcare professionals can work with them to manage their condition."

Healthcare Scanners

Around 50% of medication-related issues are driven by errors. Healthcare scanners are an excellent way to reduce human error in tasks such as patient identification during admissions or prior to procedures, medication or meal delivery or specimen collection, as they can read damaged and poor-quality barcodes, eliminating wasted seconds from any scan, and increasing productivity.

Clinical Communications App

Communication barriers are known to have a detrimental impact on patient outcomes and experiences. Patients who cannot effectively communicate with their healthcare providers face increased morbidity and mortality rates. 

Founded by Rachael Grimaldi, a senior anaesthetic registrar in the NHS, CardMedic presents a comprehensive library of pre-written scripts replicating common clinical conversations and accommodating 49 languages. Features include multilingual translations, easy-to-read text and sign language videos. CardMedic enlists care professionals from a broad range of cultural backgrounds to ensure that the app is “human translated and culturally appropriate”.

Advancements in AI and translation tools offer exciting opportunities to further enhance tools like CardMedic. The integration of AI technology could provide real-time translation services, voice recognition and facilitate personalised care recommendations.