This article originally appeared in Clinical Services Journal
When the first wave of COVID-19 swept across NHS Trusts, there was limited time to anticipate just how devastating the virus would be, and the unprecedented strain that it would put on the NHS despite the very best efforts from frontline workers. Most of the NHS Trusts were already struggling with high bed occupancy rates and staff burnout, only to be put under further strain with an unprecedented number of Coronavirus patients needing urgent medical treatment.
Added to this came a lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), a shortage of ventilators, delays to Coronavirus testing schemes, and the postponement or cancellation of elective procedures which need rescheduling. Not to mention that nearly every patient throughput process for most Trusts is still dependent on an outdated, paper-based model.
That being said, such desperate times did enable plans and ideas that have been delayed for years to suddenly receive the green light by default, and importantly frontline workers were suddenly empowered to make long overdue changes to many processes in the clinical setting, such as video conferencing for outpatient services; telephone triage to determine the need for a GP appointment followed by tele- or video calls; patient data sharing; and the use of digital solutions to predict PPE requirements and track COVID patients.
The speed with which the NHS transformed service delivery during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic was extraordinary. This is a testament to the quality and commitment of individuals throughout the health service, many of whom moved to new locations, working with new colleagues and unfamiliar equipment and processes.
As Dave Tyrell, transformation manager, TeleTracking UK, explains, with Coronavirus hospital cases rising again, combined with the impending winter pressures, adopting digital processes throughout the NHS patient flow journey not only helps to control the spread of infection, but also helps to support sustainable and long-term digital transformation that ultimately improves both patient and staff outcome.
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