Future fit? Overcoming challenges to healthcare with a digital-first practice: part 6 – FINAL THOUGHTS

The NHS is getting serious about technology. There are a number of tech Initiatives already underway – and more about to hit. What do GP practices really need, and how ready are they to embrace tech, and all the benefits it can bring? What’s getting in their way? We decided to find out.

In conjunction with our partner, business technology solutions’ provider Brother UK, Practice Business consulted practice managers, and other healthcare providers, to identify what the real barriers to change in general practice are because, if the sector can understand these, it can find solutions to overcome them. In this, the sixth and final in our series, we sum up, and our research partner, Brother UK, explains how they can help practices in their quest to realise the benefits which tech can bring

When it comes to efficiency in practices, every little helps; Frazer Whitehead, senior public-sector account manager at Brother UK

As this report makes clear, the health service remains under intense pressure to make its stretched budget go as far as possible.

With more than a third of respondents saying they spend more than six hours per week on administrative duties – and almost two thirds spending more than four hours – it’s clear that easing this burden is a key part of the overall challenge.

It’s also clear that paper-based systems continue to play an important role. Innovations that cut the amount of time staff spend handling documents – or on maintaining the equipment needed to do so – will help reduce wasted time that could otherwise be spent improving patient services.

At Brother, the Managed Print Service (MPS) we offer is designed to do just that, by looking at printing as a service, rather than leaving responsibility for maintenance and consumables’ replacement with the organisation itself. We own the hardware, and handle everything from system design and installation to technical support and supplies’ ordering.

There are several ways this can help organisations use their resources more efficiently.

Firstly, auditing the way printers are used in a longstanding institution often reveals poor alignment between the hardware available and the way it is used. We frequently see examples of many printers sitting, almost unused, in offices while those in key, patient-facing areas are stretched to breaking point and beyond.

Designing a print system based on intelligence about actual usage removes these inefficiencies and pinch points.

A properly co-ordinated installation programme, including staff training and ongoing support, takes the burden away from in-house teams.

Next, customers benefit from a full monitoring service, where printer usage and performance is continuously observed, and predictive maintenance carried out – so repairs or replacement happen before a printer develops an unexpected fault. This significantly increases reliability and reduces the likelihood of IT staff having to spend time fixing issues.

Finally, all supplies’ ordering and recycling is taken care of so, whenever a toner runs out, a new one will be waiting in its place – no ‘phone calls or online orders needed. Again, this cuts unhelpful distractions for busy staff who have better things to do.

For those who don’t need the full MPS package there is also Brother Print Service (BPS), where our team will take over supplies ordering and delivery for an existing fleet of printers to ensure you get the best out of them and reduce admin time for practice staff.

More time with patients – less time with technology

As the move towards using less paper in the health service continues, practices have an ever-increasing need to digitise information accurately and securely. Robust, reliable and user-friendly scanners are essential in this.

However office space is often limited, particularly at reception desks, and security is also a key concern, so compactness of the hardware is a priority too.

Brother offers an extensive range of options that fit the bill, occupying a minimal footprint while still including the features that can deliver an efficient workflow for staff tasked with digitising documents. These include versatile scan-to-destination features that allow documents to be created automatically in whatever location is required, be it a folder on a local network or Microsoft Sharepoint – or a host of other cloud and mobile applications.

Anything that shaves off even one or two button presses per scanned document can add up to a significant time saving over a period of weeks, months and years.

Ultimately, when it comes to healthcare, Brother’s end goal is for practice staff to spend more time with patients and less with technology.

Developing and sustaining a digital-first system in your practice

There has been a shift towards digital in the healthcare sector – one that is reflective of a wider digital shift in society as a whole. The NHS is rising to patient demands – the number and complexity of their needs, as well as their rising expectations; technology is central to meeting these aspirations.

Our world is becoming wifi-enabled and this is changing how we live and work; general practice is stepping out of the past and into the future by embracing new technologies – our joint survey provides sound evidence of a willingness among practice staff to embrace new technologies which work and are proven to make their lives, and those of their patients, easier. Brother UK believes that managed services for new hardware and existing solutions are the way forward.

Similarly, cloud solutions will be essential to practices seeking to adopt the technologies that will pave the way for new efficiencies. The cloud will facilitate the mobile and portable technologies – which are starting to have traction – that will improve communications and how staff work within the practice and when out in the community, saving on time and delivering an improved service for patients.

Practice managers certainly need to ensure that the technology they are operating is fit-for-purpose and will ‘speak’ to other devices within the practice and beyond. Hopefully, secretary of state Matt Hancock will provide the funding necessary to ensure that all practices enjoy interoperability in the very near future; as he has highlighted, it’s a crucial element in creating digital-first health provision.

You can read the Future Fit? full report HERE

Or contact the Practice Business team or our partner Brother to share your views.

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