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Technology Will Turn Patients into Healthcare ‘Consumers’


The role of technology in the NHS will become more decentralised at the same time as patients become more empowered and clinical staff become more influential, according to predictions made in a BCS video debate held to coincide with HC2010.

BCS video debates inform IT professionals about current key trends and provide informed opinions of leaders in any given field. The video panel comprises Peter Bath, Reader in Health Informatics at The University of Sheffield, Jonathan Kay, Consultant Chemical Pathologist at Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals and Professor of Health Informatics at City University, and Paul Major, Director at Program Framework.

Winning the “hearts and minds” is the next big challenge in the journey towards a fully technology-enabled NHS, it suggests, with the technology being used to encourage innovation at local levels.

Paul Major says: “We will see a proliferation of decentralisation of technology; people starting to use these new technologies and capabilities to provide solutions for their local challenges and making it easier for me as a customer to consume [healthcare] in the same way as I do everything else. This will in turn lead to a change in mindset away from building monoliths based on out-of-date technologies, to enabling people to innovate around the technology available to us.”

Peter Bath says: “You have to be very clear about the benefits that it [information and communication technology] will bring for patients. If it doesn’t improve the health and, over a period of time, the overall wellbeing of patients, we might as well all give up and go home.”

Jonathan Kay says: “To get the efficiencies that will be looked for over the next few years, you will need to see much closer working together in England between primary care trusts and hospitals, between hospitals and GPs, so you need somebody to span these to get those savings. Most of the benefits will be in terms of quality and removing discontinuity.”

The perception of IT inside the NHS needs to turn from being associated with risk, to a tool that creates opportunity, especially in the area of chronic care and the way in which clinicians and patients communicate with each other.

Users – whether doctors, nurses or patients – needed to be on board with projects much earlier so that their peer groups, who share their values and aspirations, see how the technology benefits the patient, the panellists agree.

The panel also discuss the career path and capabilities for health informatics professionals, suggesting they should have a core understanding of knowledge management.

HC2010 is taking place between 27 and 29 April, at the ICC Birmingham.

Speakers include Gwyn Thomas, CIO for Wales and Professor Heinz Wolff, Emeritus Professor of Bioengineering at Brunel University. Also speaking will be Dr Aiden Halligan, Director of Education at University College London Hospital, Professor Michael West, Executive Dean at Aston University, and Sam Sharps, who was involved in the Digital Britain Report for the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

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