Since January 2011, the Health and Social Care Bill has dominated many debates about the future – and present – of the NHS. As NHS services now try to get to grips with the realities of the Act, are there opportunities to use IT to assist tangibly?
The challenge before NHS managers and clinicians is stark. In every sense, the Act contains sweeping changes to organisations from the Department of Health to General Practice. We know that PCTs and SHAs will be abolished in 2013 and that Hospitals must now act to secure FT status by 2016.
Yet amongst the debate it’s possible to discern green shoots of opportunity for NHS organisations. The UK healthcare IT industry has always contained vibrant and effective organisations and individuals in primary and secondary care settings, and 2012 marks a year where this talent is given an opportunity to work once again with health services, providers and commissioners on the challenges that they are being asked to meet.
The progress of information technology in healthcare has at times appeared to be a story of two halves. On the one hand, truly innovative and startlingly effective solutions have been met on the other hand by disjointed projects and confused agendas.
The daily reality of planning and delivering care to patients remains, regardless of the coming reduction in NHS management budget. Within this there are software companies with solutions to help, and the opportunity today is one that combines the past with the future and can avoid some of the past pitfalls.
One of the keys to that improvement is the selection of high quality solutions that seek to interoperate and offer great functionality in an area of expertise and specialism. Inclusion of clinical standards for sensible use of data within and between organisations is the icing on the cake.
Soundly architected and properly coded software allows organisations to procure with confidence, selecting those solutions that deliver the best functionality for the service whilst avoiding the information silos or lock-ins of old.
No-one imagines that the realities of implementing the Act will be anything but enormously challenging, but 2012 might well mark the year when innovation meets reality for the benefit of hard-pressed services and their patients.