Will Technology Create the NHS We Want?


Politicians like to disagree. It is sort of in their DNA. Point scoring and disputes are all par for the course.

So when I hear of politicians from different parties agreeing about something, I pay attention. It is possible, just possible, that they might be saying something worth hearing.

I read this week that Alan Milburn (Labour) and Stephen Dorrell (Conservative), both former Heath Ministers, had agreed about the importance of technology in health.

Discussing the healthcare priorities for the next government at the UK e-Health Week event at Olympia in London recently, they got round to talking about technology.

Milburn said that getting patients involved in their own care was essential and: "Technology is the means to that end.” Pointing to his smart phone he added: “The most exciting things I see anywhere in the world now in healthcare are on this thing."

And Dorrell backed him up "The use of modern technology, information technology, allows a change in the relationship between patients and healthcare," he said. "It should enable healthcare to be much more effective."

All good. But what do we do about it? Do we have the cash to invest? Where is innovation happening? How do we test these things out?

Well the best advice I can give is the same I would give to someone just about to get on a roller coaster – hold tight and let go! Hold tight to your strategy, your goals and your vision for what you want to provide for patients. That has to be your motivation and driving force. Then let go – let creativity run riot; free up your best people to come up with ideas. And don’t let you current IT or management systems get in the way. They are there to help improve things, not hold you back.

Easy? No. Possibly failing? Yes. Worth a shot? Definitely. Without imagination in our use of technology, IT and information we will never create the NHS we all want, and that our patients deserve.

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