To make the most of new technology, the NHS needs a cultural shift

Written by Afshin Attari on 4 August 2017 in Opinion

The health service needs to make sure its people are geared up for the data-rich future, according to Afshin Attari of Exponential-e 

For the Health and Social Care Network to be a success, the NHS requires cultural change among its 1.4 million employees, according to Afshin Attari  Credit: Adobe Stock

Today the NHS finds itself at a crossroads. On the one hand, never in its 69-year history has it faced so much scrutiny – from claims of staff shortages to a lack of beds. On the other, thanks to technological advancements, one could argue that, thanks to new technologies, there hasn’t been a more exciting period to truly modernise the world’s oldest universal healthcare programme. 

For me, the future of the NHS lies in what one hand can do for the other. Technology has the ability to revolutionise the health service, making it more efficient, enable the delivery of cutting-edge medical procedures and improving the patient experience. 

The ongoing move to the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) from the decade-old N3 is one of the greatest developments in the NHS’s history, because it can become the technological enabler the organisation has been crying out for. 

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HSCN has the ability to effectively and quickly process and deliver data, relieving pressure on hundreds of trusts that have been reliant on ageing network infrastructure. It is also the chief enabling platform for new technologies and services which will not only make each patient’s experience better, but will ultimately save lives. 

But for a technology revolution to really take hold, a cultural shift among the NHS’s 1.4 million employees is required. Staff are used to a certain way of working and, like in any organisation, attempts to push through change can be met with resistance. 

The leading authorities that are overseeing the rollout of HSCN, have the opportunity to ensure that new technologies are utilised in a way that benefit NHS staffers’ daily work lives. This is of particular importance when one considers that the majority of people are employed to carry out critically important medical procedures – and could do without spending crucial time carrying out what could be described as admin tasks.

With patient numbers at a record high and set to rise further over the coming years, staff will be faced with an unprecedented amount of data to sift through as the move to the HSCN takes hold, leading to increased workloads. They cannot be expected to continue operating as they have been. 

But the NHS cannot enforce this culture shift alone. To ensure technology can be truly transformational, it must ensure that external businesses, that have had tremendous success providing cutting-edge technology to the private sectors, are entwined in the process. 

About the author

Afshin Attari is director of public sector at Exponential-e

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