I recently sat down with Veronica Southern, Clinical Lead on the Teleswallowing project for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Coincidentally, she had attended the NHS England Chief Allied Health Professions Officers Conference 2015 in London a few days before we met. It was interesting to hear Veronica’s feedback on the conference so I decided to share our collective thoughts via this blog.
Doing more with less: Multiply the usage instead of investment
Veronica: As a firm believer of video, my recommendation to all professionals is to use collaboration technology. Not only use it, but exploit it for day-to-day jobs. Video enables staff to connect and collaborate - not just externally with patients for providing remote consultations - but also internally to defy the barriers of distance.
Polycom: We have heart-warming success stories about the many ways collaboration improves the delivery of many different types of healthcare services such as in paediatric neurology, dysphagia, dialysis, heart problems to name a few. Each case presents a unique way in which video collaboration is being used. So there is no upper limit to the number of ways a therapist, a doctor, a patient, a surgeon, a hospital or staff can use video collaboration. Be creative and the sky’s the limit.
Fewer people doing more work is not resourceful or sustainable
Veronica: The economy is tough and it is affecting professionals and therapists who are struggling to keep their heads above water. Sustaining services in tough economic time does not and should not mean staff cuts. The demand for healthcare services is at record-high levels and will continue to grow [The Kings Fund: Spending on health and social care over the next 50 years]. It means that you need to think outside of the box and that the traditional approach might need a rethink to design more advanced and sustainable ways of doing the same job. Video collaboration is one innovation that can help us achieve the results we want.
Polycom: In business, the strength of your process optimisation programmes can define and shape the workplace of the future. For healthcare, the focus for optimisation should be spread across the organisation rather than being placed on patient-to-specialist touch point only. A lot of work is also completed behind the scenes placing peer-to-peer collaboration of the staff at par. Elleuno in Italy understood this challenge, overhauled the system and are now reaping the benefits of workplace collaboration.
Ageing population means ageing staff too!
Veronica: We are yet to come face-to-face with one of the biggest challenges that the healthcare industry would ever
face – the population where a majority are elderly. About two thirds of NHS clients are aged 65 and over, and yet they only receive two fifths of total expenditure [Age UK: Later Life in the United Kingdom - July, 2015]. Healthcare specialists possess the knowledge that in many cases can be used to deliver expertise remotely and can save lives. As they themselves age, many such specialists will face age-related physical challenges but that does not mean that their clinical brains can’t still be put to good use by delivering their expertise via video rather than by home visits. We need to act now and think about the ways technology can help us meet the demands that the future will impose.
Polycom: The first 150-year old baby is already born and the new retirement age will be much higher than 65 years according to CNN. It is impossible to predict what will happen, yet we are all speculating on the future we are heading towards. As the expectancy of the average human life increases, the pressure of being able to provide healthcare services to many more people increases. And this will keep increasing as we become more advanced in medical sciences.