Harnessing the potential of the Cloud in the NHS

Gianpiero Celino, Strategic Business Development Director at Cegedim UK, discusses the potential of using the Cloud in the NHS to improve efficiency. 

Every morning thousands of people call their local doctor’s surgery to try and book an appointment, yet a proportion of those seeking help from their GP don’t need to see a doctor. The challenge is making it easy for these individuals to find the correct pathway so they can quickly get the care that they do need. Can the Cloud contribute to making this happen?

As Matt Hancock1 claims, the problem with the NHS is not solely money or resources, but the upward trajectory of demand, which is rising faster than ever before, and how the NHS manages that demand. By utilising innovative technology and taking a systems-wide approach, we can equip healthcare professionals with the right information to provide the right care at the right time to the patient, which in turn helps to manage and reduce demand. Crucially, we can also equip patients with better information with which to make choices about their care. Unfortunately, all too often the information we need or want to share is locked up in another organisation’s records, requires multiple systems to access or is simply buried in our systems.

“We have only scratched the surface of understanding the benefits that come from putting healthcare data in the hands of the patient”

Harnessing the potential of the Cloud in the NHS offers a route to realising a number of great opportunities to improve efficiency, as well as reducing costs, saving time and improving resilience. At its most fundamental, the Cloud underpins the NHS’ efforts to bring organisations together to share information. Moreover, it can also help us empower patients to make better choices and manage their own health information. Both of these enable a better use of medical and clinical resource.

The benefits of using the Cloud will quickly become more apparent in a GP setting. There are a number of drivers encouraging the adoption of the public Cloud which offer greater openness and interoperability between systems, such as:

Cost

The Cloud is considered a lower cost model for managing system-wide infrastructure and connectivity; paying for services when required rather than buying always-on dedicated hardware frees up resources and capacity in IT teams to focus on adding value in new ways. The NHS could spend less and get more for its money. The NHS also benefits from choosing system suppliers that have embraced the Cloud with greater flexibility to scale up and down as required to support the NHS.

Integration

Arguably the greatest benefit of the Cloud is the ability to remove barriers to working together at scale to share information for the benefit of clinicians and patients. The Cloud provides openness and flexibility to be able to quickly and easily share data between different settings and providers, meaning that patients can have uninterrupted care, with clinicians having the right information at their fingertips.

Systems that have been developed with a Cloud-first approach are best placed to drive the information-sharing agenda.

Competition

The Cloud also helps to encourage new and innovative suppliers to enter the market in order to show what can be done when we unleash the potential of the data in our systems in new ways. By moving data and services into the Cloud, we reduce barriers to entry and put the NHS in a stronger position to determine what it specifically requires from suppliers and when to scale up or scale down.

Security

Questions will always remain around the security and confidentiality surrounding personal data being held in the Cloud. However, the Cloud is also the driver for levelling up the security and resilience of our systems. The NHS has learned the hard way that old, unsupported and fragmented systems are an open invitation to malicious actors. The Cloud allows us to apply the most up-to-date standards and protection to our systems and data.

Data security and privacy is the key to trust – and without it, the data is pointless. With the transformation to the Cloud comes great responsibility to ensure data is handled in a way which doesn’t jeopardise the confidentiality, integrity and trust which patients put into our records and systems.

The benefits

The NHS needs to challenge its suppliers to demonstrate how they will help them to accelerate their journey to the Cloud and to realise the benefits for patients and clinicians.

Innovative technologies continue to unlock the doors to opportunities which haven’t to date been considered possible. By elevating data and services to the Cloud, the NHS can explore and experiment with the application of new technologies such as machine learning, which requires access to large and complex data sets in order to support clinicians in decision-making.

We have only scratched the surface of understanding the benefits that come from putting healthcare data in the hands of the patient. There is great potential in the patient driving the healthcare journey and interacting with healthcare professionals armed with the data and information held about them. This becomes easier and more reliable when data is elevated from proprietary and legacy systems and made available in a secure public Cloud.

Smart use of data is increasingly being recognised as a fundamental driver to reduce demand and enhance patient outcomes. However, this transformation can only be achieved by having more collaborative technologies and full real-time visibility of healthcare data for clinicians and the NHS to make the right decisions.

 

Gianpiero Celino is Strategic Business Development Director at Cegedim UK. Go to www.cegedim.com

References

1 www.gov.uk/government/speeches/what-record-nhs-investment-means-for-each-of-my-priorities

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