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Is this the way forward in providing better clinical care and practice?

Rationale

Unified communications for healthcare should aim to bring together several disparate strands of the overall information flow. There has been huge expenditure of funds on computer systems within both the National Health Service (NHS) and the private health sector, but this has not yet resulted in integration of the vast amounts of data generated. The data needs to be converted into useful information delivered in an easily accessible fashion anywhere that patient care is delivered.

While numerous clinical systems are in place in hospitals today but often they do not easily inter-operate, unless supplied by a single manufacturer.

The importance of unifying communications grows with the needs of a growing population and consequent increasing demands on health care. This requires greater efficiency in delivery or will result in ever escalating cost. Systems of all kinds, whether they are major emergency response, patient monitoring and records, x-ray, laboratory, bed management or any of the myriad activities carried out by health professionals require seamless integration to maximise their effectiveness.

By definition, staff in healthcare is required to be mobile, whether travelling to patients of attending them in various hospital situations. Communication to the right staff at the right time is necessary at all times and in all places to attain efficiency of delivery of care.

Growth

The population of the United Kingdom is growing, and some analysts forecast it will approach 60 million or more in the next decade. A factor with direct impact on the demand for health care is the aging population. Advances in medical care have resulted in people living longer and requiring more assistance. This growth will require improved efficiency of the systems supporting care and by definition, their interoperability. Without this increase in efficiency, more and more taxpayer’s money will be poured into the NHS.

Objectives

The main thrust of the communications for healthcare project, or group of sub-projects, must be to deliver:

  • Improve patient care and staff productivity
  • Enable existing systems to share information seamlessly
  • Facilitate the deployment of newer technologies designed for mobile staff
  • Improve staff working conditions and therefore morale
  • Provide the means of handling emerging threats of terrorist bombs or natural disasters

Guidance

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has a Technology Appraisals Committee which develops guidance for the NHS and considers and interprets evidence on the clinical effectiveness and cost effectiveness of health technologies referred to it.

The publication “Clinical effectiveness and clinical governance made easy” places emphasis on evaluation and audit of clinical care and services provided by individual practitioners, practice teams and Trusts. The work addresses the evolution of systems for monitoring performance of trusts.

The Department of Health has produced guidance entitled Informatics Planning 2009/10 defining the scope and content of the plan. Recomme