The NHS is currently understaffed, and overstretched as a result. With care and services already dangerously strained in places, and the UK’s ageing population threatening to increase the workload exponentially, something will need to change if the service is to continue to function. Even increasing the funding received by the NHS is not enough to solve the issue, as an increase in budget doesn’t necessarily equate to solving the staffing crisis.
A BBC article from February of this year estimated that the NHS in England alone is understaffed by roughly 100,000 people, or, put another way, one in 12 positions in the service are currently vacant, including 10,000 doctor and 35,000 nursing positions. This means that existing staff are under ever-increasing pressure to meet constantly growing demands, which makes their time precious.
Services will need to become more efficient, and digital healthcare is already proving valuable in freeing up man-hours, leaving clinicians more time to focus on their patients. Even something as simple as sharing databases, or creating platforms to do so can make a huge difference. As it stands, for huge swathes of the country there is no facility in place for sharing patient information between GPs’ surgeries, hospitals, and ambulance services. So if a hospital-based clinician needs to clarify any details about a patient, or their treatment history, for example, most will need to phone, fax, or write to the patient’s GP to request that information. This will often necessitate scheduling a second consultation while the information is exchanged, something that is time-consuming for all parties involved, particularly as that appointment will also generate additional admin.
The Great North Care Record (GNCR), a government funded digital healthcare project, has already transformed the way patients’ data is shared between healthcare providers in the North of England. The GNCR means that surgeries, hospitals, and ambulance services now have shared access to patient records, and are able to access them instantly. This doesn’t only increase efficiency and save time – it can also save lives. Out-of-hours services, especially emergency departments, benefit massively from having access to detailed clinical records, allowing for an informed approach to care. While this is an important step in the right direction, it is far from universal. The GNCR is limited to the North East and North Cumbria, covering only around 3 million of the UK’s 65 million people.
But managing and sharing data is only half the battle – how it is collected is another area where there’s considerable room for improvement. Between ensuring patients are directed to the right department or specialist, and then assessing for treatment, triaging currently accounts for a significant amount of clinicians’ time.
Digital healthcare systems such as PhysioWizard® are in the process of revolutionising the way triage is performed, and saving clinicians much-needed time in the process. Patients complete an online questionnaire which can be completed in under ten minutes, inputting information on their symptoms, with their answers then being algorithmically analysed so they can be directed to the appropriate department, and a report sent to the relevant clinician. By the time they first meet with their patient, the clinician is familiar with key elements of their medical history. Handing over these routine tasks to AI can appreciably reduce a clinician’s workload, leaving them with more time to focus on the patients themselves, and their treatment. It also helps to add an extra level of consistency in data gathering, making for more thorough patient records.
If you are a healthcare professional and would like to hear more about how PhysioWizard® can help to improve patient care and services while lightening your workload, then why not request a demo?