Why better connections are critical to healthcare

By Martin McFadyen - Head of Public Sector, Virgin Media Business

There’s no going back. 

The need for digital transformation in healthcare has been intensified and accelerated by the pandemic. And the process is here to stay, not least because the benefits of digitalisation have been clearly demonstrated. 

During the peak of the crisis, face-to-face GP appointments went down 70% in a few weeks and NHS app registrations rocketed, according to NHS Digital

Virtual consultations, virtual reality and burgeoning new technology are now part of your new everyday. 

And a reliable, fast network is the catalyst: enabling the vital connections between people and information.

Cloud-based network

Even before the massive upheaval of Covid-19, many networks were struggling to keep up with the demands of multi-site working and information sharing. 

Now, with telemedicine moving from temporary measure to permanent solutions along with the need for seamless, secure patient data sharing, it’s high time that last-century legacy systems were put out to grass. 

Cloud-based network solutions mean health professionals can work and communicate wherever, whenever and however they need to, on any device. 

Connectivity to the people, the apps and devices they need is resulting in operational efficiency and improved patient care.

At Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, an ambitious digital programme has given patients access to expert care without the need to travel. The clinicians can now conduct more than 600 video appointments each week, via smartphone, computer or tablet.

Put the right infrastructure, technology and support apps in place and hospitals, GPs, pharmacies, community and social care providers can start to consolidate patient care for the future. 

This is going to be key to achieving the NHS Long Term Plan [LTP], i.e. advancing acute, community, primary and mental health providers to a core level of digitalisation by 2024. 

The must-haves that maintain progress

To facilitate progress and change in the health sector, there are some essentials that must be in place:

  • Investment in core infrastructure and systems to support applications for a flexible workforce, and improve delivery of digital-first services
  • Continued investment in collaboration technologies to empower your staff to overcome your new everyday challenges such as virtual consultations

Telemedicine: from necessity to your new everyday

As recently as 2019, telemedicine accounted for just 13% of GP appointments in England, while a time 1% took place over video.

But in the four weeks to 12th April 2020 that figure rose dramatically, with 71% of routine appointments being delivered remotely

As with so many advances triggered by Covid-19, they're unlikely to revert to the old ways. 

And why should they? 

Telemedicine can offer serious time and cost savings (not to mention improved safety for patients and clinicians), especially as attendance improves too, which leads to better patient outcomes.

Dr Ben Wright, Lead Clinician for the Richmond Wellbeing Service, who now spearheads an entirely digital service, has seen the advancement first-hand: “We found an improvement in clinical delivery. It really helped the outcomes. Now, with virtual consultations the personal cost of having an appointment is so much less. So, more people are able to have treatment and to benefit from it.” 

Telemedicine is not a temporary fix driven by crisis. It’s a productive, efficient way forward, which can best be exploited with a quality network infrastructure in place. 

Reliable, fast connections link you to your peers and patients and ready your organisation for future change.

Creating better outcomes

When you move to less complex, more flexible software and cloud-based technologies, the sharing of information and the management of data becomes so much easier and faster, potentially saving you a lot of time and money.

Now you can make changes and improvements whenever you need to, adapting to the unexpected with seamless speed.

And being well connected makes it easier for clinicians to share expertise and knowledge, exploit new digital tools and technology and ultimately provide better and faster treatment.  

SD-WAN (software-defined networking in a wide area network) could be your springboard. It connects you directly to the cloud from anywhere, so your workforce is always close to the apps and data that it needs to access. 

Perfectly aligned to cloud and software as a service [SaaS] applications, SD-WAN brings next-generation security features for complete data integrity, and strict authentication rules. 

Everything works more quickly and reliably, which has a positive impact on the morale of users too. 

Want to unleash the potential of your new everyday and invest effectively in the digital future?