In the last 18 months or so there has been a strong shift towards patient engagement. The Health Secretary himself, Jeremy Hunt, has indicated that rather than focusing on reactive care, the NHS is determined to get on the front foot and move towards a proactive system. This approach focuses on ensuring that the patient pathway is about prevention rather than cure. Not only does this mean better quality of life for the individual, it is also a lot less costly for the health system.
Patient engagement programmes typically focus on technology and data access in order to empower patients to adopt active roles in managing their own healthcare journey. The theory is that the more engaged and responsible they are, the more likely they are to continue with the prescribed course of treatment, whether that be physiotherapy, tablets or simple exercises to undertake at home. Quality of care and outcomes through this sustained and increased engagement are only likely to increase.
Quality of Care Relies Heavily on Technology
Not unlike the senior management teams at hospitals, trusts and other organisations, healthcare IT departments face serious challenges. The pursuit of technology efficiency is relentless and feels never ending and on top of this, all too often, IT executives working in healthcare find themselves battling to simply ‘keep the lights on.’ The net result is that users are highly critical of their IT experience, finding it long winded and difficult in comparison to the simplicity that they enjoy with consumer technologies.
In short, IT is between a rock and a hard place. Rising user expectations and its own, often outdated platforms that can’t be replaced due to cost, compliance and often security concerns. It’s enough to make you bang your head against the nearest wall. But, what if we learned from patient engagement programmes and applied the same principles to users? What benefits could we stand to reap?
An Empowered User Is a More Productive User
Let’s take a moment to consider this. In its simplest form, patient engagement is about helping individuals make the right decisions that contribute to ongoing good health. This means:
- Pushing information to the patient proactively based on their unique medical history and needs
- Delivering access to self-service portals with relevant, patient specific information
- Providing patients with secure and compliant access to health management tools
If we mirror these principles with IT users rather than patients we can already see what the tangible benefits would be from improved user satisfaction, enhanced security and compliance, and reduced IT delivery costs. For too long healthcare IT has been about features and functions, ticking boxes, rather than about end user empowerment.
- Long log in times that reduce patient interactions to mere minutes, rather than the full amount allocated.
- Playing IT service delivery bingo based on your location or device.
- Constant phone calls to IT to access even the most basic of information.
In its place is a streamlined, context-aware, consistent high performing IT infrastructure that facilitates clinicians doing what they do best – treating patients.
Engagement strategies are powerful forces and healthcare IT could learn a lot of lessons. This doesn’t mean having to rip and replace great swathes of applications, instead it means looking at how you can integrate and enhance what you do have in order to make it a powerful force for IT good across your IT estate.