Monday, 1 November 2010

Remote working...

My friend and colleague Jim Scopes at InScope recently wrote about  the 21st Century NHS and the potential for remote activity to better suit the needs of the patient.  This could include remote consultation using web based technologies for example.  This idea isn't new, the Australians have managed all sorts of remote activity including education for years.  What struck me though is just how great the potential is for saving time and money this way. 

Okay, at the moment not everyone has the necessary technology for this to work fully effectively but that isn't a situation that will stay the same for ever.  And, in some cases it may be more efficient to provide NHS patients, especially those with limited mobility and high care requirements, with the appropriate technology to connect them to services more immediately.  The cost of provision could more than be saved by reducing the load on the service in getting patients to appointments.  

There are plenty of other opportunities for creating more complete remote services, especially where physical presence isn't actually a requirement, rather it is just the way things have always been done in the past.  Education has started to move down this path with an increasing number of online and distance based education options.  Given the relatively low attendance requirement for some courses this is a considerably more efficient option and allows for courses to be offered to a much wider audience.  Why sell to 20 because that is the room capacity when you can deliver to an unlimited number through intelligent application of technology.

Challenging current thinking and process norms is not all that hard to do and often the simplest ideas have the most profound impact.  The huge expenditure on the NHS IT systems appears to have done little for the patient.  Perhaps putting some new thought into process and approach and taking advantage of some of the technology now available to the NHS might have been more appropriate.  Maybe it could have helped to reduce wait times at surgeries, waiting lists in hospitals and actually have given those that need help, but struggle to get to the point of service, a better quality of care. 

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