I’ve had my first smartphone a year now and still have to ask my 12-year-old son, James, to help me when something goes wrong, which comes as second nature to him.
I was born in the early 1970s and continue to be fascinated by the rapid rate of technological change in my lifetime, particularly in health care.
In those days, keen runners like me tracked our performance with a stop watch that had to be mechanically wound up. Now there’s equipment I can wear on my wrist to monitor my speed in milliseconds, distance covered to within a couple of feet, heart rate and much more, at the touch of a button.
Technology is part of our lives. This was brought home to me a couple of weeks ago when I attended the Doncaster Technology Enabled Lives Conference and saw and heard about some of the latest monitoring equipment that’s supporting people with long term health problems and dementia to remain living at home.
My Bentley practice was a pilot site for tele-heath, which enables patients to use hi-tech equipment based at home to monitor their vital signs and symptoms. Patients take their readings and answer a series of health questions every day and the information is electronically transmitted to a monitoring centre where it’s checked. If a problem is detected, the clinician who looks after them makes contact.
This is one aspect of technology the NHS is harnessing but much more is also taking place locally.
We’re developing, with partner NHS organisations, Doncaster Council and the borough’s 43 GP practices, something called a ‘local digital roadmap’. It’s the route towards achieving our ambition of making all local health and social care records ‘paperless’ by 2020, so everything will be retained electronically.
For example, nationally, nearly every NHS patient has an electronic summary care record which allows permitted clinicians to access, in an emergency for example, the information that’s held about them. So if someone from Doncaster has a serious illness whilst on holiday in Newquay, a hospital doctor in Cornwall can quickly check which medication they are on, plus any allergies or adverse reactions they may have.
The potential benefits are huge for Doncaster people in enabling organisations to share – with patients’ consent – some more information they hold about their health problems and needs, such as medical problems and specific wishes about your future care.
I’m sure you wonder why we do not share more of this information already but we are working hard to overcome the hurdles to make sure this is done in a safe and controlled way.
It’s now possible for you as a patient to check via your home computer your personal health record at your GP surgery.
We’re also looking at how we can use technology so hospital clinicians can provide better communication with GPs and social care staff after discharge.
So technology is here to stay and we need to embrace it and make best use of it.