Leader: The good of IT in healthcare

Let's not forget the benefits in spite of poor execution
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

Let's not forget the benefits in spite of poor execution

The NHS IT modernisation programme has received its fair share of criticism. Much of which, granted, might well be warranted - with costs likely exceeding £12bn, a series of rollout delays and scepticism from some doctors who wonder if it's "the biggest government IT disaster yet".

But ironically at a Northern Ireland hospital trust outside the remit of the NHS Connecting for Health (CfH) programme, silicon.com has seen just how beneficial IT can be to doctors and patients.

The Royal Hospitals Trust in Belfast has rolled out a new wireless network which will be used to share X-rays easily among doctors and to speed up drug dispensing. The trust is even handing out Star Trek-style wireless communicators to staff to facilitate finding and communicating with doctors and nurses when they're needed.

Take this example of the sort of benefits Belfast hospitals are seeing.

With film X-rays only one copy would be available. It would first be shown to the patient's doctor to make a diagnosis and then would have to make its way to the radiologist for further analysis. Often the X-ray would get lost in the process and have to be redone.

With the new system the digital image is immediately available to multiple doctors - and with complex images such as CT scans the digital version is much easier to deal with and thus can make diagnosis both quicker and more accurate.

When we saw what the Belfast hospitals were doing with the technology, it made claims that the NHS is "better off" without the IT upgrade seem ludicrous.

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Of course execution is the big issue and that's where the CfH scheme appears to be stumbling. This publication would never argue that the scheme's organisers not be held accountable for missteps.

But let's not get too jaded and forget the good that can come from this - or perhaps this just underscores how essential it is for the NHS to get its IT overhaul right, and the magnitude of the consequences if it does not.

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