Reducing the pressure

As the cold weather starts to bite, so too does the pressure on health services across the country. Slips and falls on wet leaves or icy pavements bring strains and broken bones to the treatment table, whilst seasonal flu and other viruses contend with the ongoing covid crisis. The result is an increase in patient demand, coinciding with an increased likelihood of healthcare staff needing time off through illness.

At times like these, anything which can reduce the pressure on health services is welcome. And sometimes the simplest ideas can be most effective. Take, for example, a recently announced initiative which aims to provide an early stroke warning system. The initiative will see 220,000 home blood pressure monitors being sent out to individuals who have been diagnosed with uncontrolled blood pressure.

With these individuals monitoring their blood pressure at home and reporting readings on a regular basis to their GPs, it is hoped that any significant changes in blood pressure will be detected as soon as they occur. This in turn will enable early interventions, perhaps in the form of further investigation or the prescription of blood pressure reduction medication, thereby reducing the chance of an individual suffering a stroke or heart attack.

Commenting on the initiative the National Medical Director of Primary Care for the NHS, Dr Nikki Kanani, said:  “These simple checks will help us to save lives.” Meanwhile the Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said “This is just one way we’re backing the health service to harness the potential of new technology, to support hardworking staff and save thousands of lives.”

That comment about harnessing technology is an important one. In recent years, we have seen how technology can be used as a force for good across health services. At one end of the scale we have technologies such as the use of robotics to perform surgery, thereby improving outcomes and patient recovery times. We’ve also seen how gene therapy can be used to stop the progress of, or treat, diseases.

At the other end of the scale we’ve seen how even something as simple as the sending out of SMS text messages to remind patients of appointments due can make a difference to the smooth running of a health practice. In fact, the more that technology can be used to take care of routine administration tasks, the greater the potential to treat patients.

Being able to call up patient records at a touch of a computer key might seem simple but it could help health practitioners to provide a swifter response to patient needs.  And when something like winter flu strikes, the ability to devolve phone answering to a third party could enable a practice to continue providing the care its patients needs despite reduced staffing levels. There is little doubt that health services will be under pressure this winter. Making the best use of technology available might just help to reduce that pressure to a more manageable level whilst providing good levels of patient care.