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May 16, 2008

Future Health

Man using PCA few weeks ago the BBC's Click programme showed us the possibilities of technology in health. PACS and voice recognition at the Countess of Chester Hospital; Radio Tagging of equipment at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, in fact examples of what you read about on this site, and that made me sad.

No, not because the examples broadcast were poor. Not at all. But because it reminded me (yet again) of the difference ICT can make to healthcare but the slowness of its adoption. The Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, where I once worked, implemented PACS and voice recognition 6 years ago. Nor was it the first hospital to do so, with others like the Hammersmith near London already having led the way.

Seen all at once the examples in the Click broadcast give the impression of a high tech NHS; in truth, it is far from it. However, to challenge the funereal pace at which healthcare exploits ICT, perhaps we need some pilot sites where all of these technologies are embedded into business as usual that would serve as an example to the rest of the NHS.

Those hoping for the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) to help quicken ICT adoption would have been further disappointed by the UK National Audit Office's report this week. The report suggests that the NPfIT is running 4 years behind schedule and will not be implemented (whatever that means) until 2015 (if then). Many will once again be asking whether systems specified 3-4 years ago and targeted for implementation in 6 years may be obsolescent, not to say obsolete.