How the UK can become a medtech superpower by 2030

Robert Robinson, healthcare vice president and general manager, Honeywell Sensing & Safety Technologies, shares his thoughts on the potential for medical technology in the UK.

The UK Government is on a mission to level up the country’s tech industry and make the nation a science and technology superpower by 2030. Although the country’s tech sector is valued at $1 trillion – making it the third country in the world to reach this milestone after the U.S. and China – there is still some way to go before it can be considered a superpower in this field by most. To reach this goal, all industries and sectors will have to be committed to technological innovation, including in healthcare. 

Innovation and the adoption of digital technologies are essential to tackling current healthcare challenges and transforming the way this vital service is delivered. It is essential for the Government to work closely with both tech developers and healthcare providers to ensure the needs of staff and patients are being met.

The National Health Service challenge

Currently, hospital staff are stretched thin between caring for patients and completing time-consuming administrative tasks. Recently, studies have shown that nurses and other healthcare workers spend only a third of their time directly interacting with patients. Often, they also spend one to two hours per shift working on transferring information, or getting information to their colleagues who will be taking on the next shift. While this process is digitised in some cases through electronic health records, some is still manual and paper based.

Another statistic shows that, on average, a nurse will be interrupted 10 times in one hour. Due to several factors, including the strains of the pandemic, there is a high turnover rate of staff within the healthcare industry. There is currently a shortage of half a million workers in the UK and around 30% of nurses will quit in the first three years of their working experience. The need to manage patient demand amid the ongoing healthcare worker shortage is leading more healthcare providers to implement technologies and tools to improve efficiency, while still maintaining high-quality care.

While there are plans to create doctor apprenticeships for school leavers, double the number of medical schools and increase nurse training, the government will need to work with hospitals to harness the power of technology to change the way healthcare is delivered. Crucially, there needs to be an emphasis on the digital technologies that can ease the day-to-day bottlenecks and challenges in healthcare environments, and not just on flagship technologies such as surgical robots.

In response to these challenges, medtech companies need to be committed to helping the healthcare industry combat these challenges, and ensure that every patient has access to high-quality, secure and effective care, while making the job of the caregiver easier and more efficient. They have a critical role to play in shaping the future of healthcare and making the UK a med-tech superpower.

How tech providers can make the UK a medtech powerhouse

One key way that technology developers and medtech organisations can help digitalise the healthcare industry is by supporting end-to-end process automation. By providing clinical flow solutions, or workflow solutions that can drive efficiency through the process, nurses and healthcare providers can sort through data logically and more easily categorise information. They’re also able to make smarter decisions faster and more efficiently across their daily operations in the hospital. This relies on complete connectivity between systems, irrespective of provider.

Another way to drive efficiency in hospitals is through mobile devices, which allow healthcare providers to access information on the move and stay connected to patients and to one another. Due to their ability to provide real-time access, using mobile devices can have a positive impact on care, safety, and the patient experience. Using mobile technology can reduce the administrative burden, leaving more time for patient care. 

Mobile computers and enterprise mobility solutions enable important communication between healthcare staff through phone calls, secure texting, email, and video chat. For instance, healthcare providers can quickly swipe and tap to find a patient’s caregiver and their availability. Mobile devices should be part of any hospital toolkit as, when healthcare workers have access to all this data, they can spend far more time focused on individual patients. This is just one way technology can be implemented to make the UK a med-tech superpower. 

Additionally, around 50% of medication-related issues are driven by errors. Technology can be used to reduce errors and increase the efficiency of healthcare providers. For example, when a nurse is changing shifts, tech providers can automate the clinician hand-off process. When all the documentation and data is streamlined, then there’s very limited potential for error.

Healthcare scanners are an excellent way to reduce human error in tasks such as patient identification during admissions or prior to procedures, medication or meal delivery or specimen collection, as they can read damaged and poor-quality barcodes, eliminating wasted seconds from any scan, and increasing productivity.

As well as benefitting staff workflows, technology also has the potential to reduce the amount of time a patient’s hospital stay and prevent patients’ unnecessary readmissions. By helping to reduce errors, and therefore issues such as infection resulting from those errors, both patients and hospital finances can benefit.

The healthcare landscape is constantly evolving, and with more healthcare worker strikes lined up for later this year and the consistently high turnover rate of staff, it is essential for tech companies and medtech entities to work together to help digitalise the industry. By embracing technology to improve workflows and reduce pressures on staff, patients will ultimately have better care and the UK can make strides towards realising its vision of being a tech superpower. 

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.