A hefty £1bn has been earmarked by the government to fund new technology for the NHS over the next five years in order to make the massive healthcare organisation become more efficient and hit its target of £22bn in efficiency savings.
While £1bn is not a small amount of money, it is not, relatively speaking, a huge sum either when it comes to rolling out technology across an organisation that employs over a million people.
So health secretary Jeremy Hunt has commissioned former UK digital champion and all-round technology advocate Baroness Martha Lane Fox to come up with ways in which the NHS can use digital technology and services to ensure the investment is put to good to use.
"In the network age, universality, equity and quality must be at the very centre of how we build, adopt and scale new technologies in health. No one must be left behind," said Lane Fox.
With the concept of digital inclusion, whereby people have universal access to the services and benefits of new technology, at the top of the agenda, Fox came up with four main recommendations for the National Information Board.
The first is to ensure those with the most pressing health and social needs are prioritised when it comes to creating and introducing new digital tools across the NHS; given the diversity of ailments the healthcare organisation treats, this is not likely to be the most simple of tasks.
The second point is much more straightforward: the provision of free Wi-Fi in every NHS building. Of course, the NHS is the largest public healthcare organisation in the world, so that means implementing and rolling out free Wi-Fi access to a lot of buildings.
Lane Fox followed that with the recommendation that NHS staff are trained in basic digital skills to ensure that they can support patients' use of digital services.
Finally, the Baroness recommended that 10 percent of registered patients in each GP practice should be capable of using a digital service such as online appointment booking, repeat prescriptions and accessing their records by 2017.
Hitting this target shouldn't be too difficult given that people are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. However, the people who lean on the NHS the most tend to be of advanced age and have little or no digital skills, so it's vital that the NHS can still serve users through non-digital means.
The government noted that the National Information Board is currently considering Fox's recommendations.
A technology overhaul can bring significant benefits for hospitals, as seen with the £200m IT transformation of Cambridge University Hospital with the help of HP.
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