BT calls for ‘coordinated approach’ to NHS tech adoption
The UK’s National Heath Service is facing acute pressure, with the number of people waiting more than 12 hours to be admitted for treatment to A&E departments hitting almost 45,000 in October, an increase of 35% on the previous month.
A recent survey from UK telco BT found that NHS staff thought that artificial intelligence could play a key role in cutting waiting times for healthcare professionals, improving patient outcomes and cutting the cost of patient care.
More than half (53%) of NHS staff respondents believed that AI will have a significant impact on clinical service delivery, most immediately through automated appointment booking and improving the accuracy of diagnosis.
The British telco is currently piloting an AI-powered tool with the UK’s national healthcare organisation to help streamline patient communication, simplify referrals and reduce staff workload. It also aims to cut missed or double-booked appointments.
However, more than half (59%) of NHS staff said pilots were taking too long to reach widespread adoption, and two thirds (72%) of the people using digital tech in the NHS think it is being held back by a lack of integration with other legacy technologies.
Digital diagnostic tools, such as virtual image streaming, and community-based healthcare services, like virtual wards, are already facilitating access to health services by allowing patients to be diagnosed and treated from the comfort of their home.
However, BT’s director of Healthcare Sultan Mahmud said that a more coordinated apparoch was needed.
“We have the technology — what we need now is a coordinated approach. Government, citizens, NHS leaders and tech providers must work together to focus on the investment in infrastructure and delivery mechanisms that can help the challenged workforce.
“This is about realising the digital dividend of improved patient experience and reduced administrative burden for our clinicians.
“Those on the frontline and behind the scenes have told us that investing in digitally-enabled services like diagnostics, care closer to home, and the careful use of AI in areas like diagnostics and NHS back office functions could help improve productivity,” he added.
The survey found that 80% of NHS staff also believe greater use of digital diagnostic tools would cut waiting times, a similar proportion (83%) expect them to improve patient outcomes, and 76% say that they would ultimately cut NHS costs.
This sentiment is also felt for virtual ward technology, with 76% believing further investment in this space would cut waiting times, while also improving patient outcomes (77%) and cutting costs too (71%).
Most NHS staff (67%) said that digital training must be a key focus of investment in the future with 38% saying confidence using emerging technology is key to its success.
Paul Bhogal, consultant interventional neuroradiologist, added: “The challenges facing the NHS are considerable, in some cases chronic, and nobody is under the illusion that the solutions will be simple, but clearly technological innovation is a big part of how we are going to succeed.”
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