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A revolution in health care

According to the World Economic Forum we are standing on the brink of change, a time in which the Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking hold of the world. Looking back into the past, the first industrial revolution ushered in an era of mechanisation, process driven and with people merely seen as cogs in the industrial wheel. Then came electric power and mass production followed by the third industrial revolution which ushered in the use of information technology as a driver of automated production.


The fourth Industrial Revolution is one step further on, driven by a ‘fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.’ Put simply, technology has gone so far and is so interconnected that people have stopped becoming cogs in the wheel and instead are the prime drivers of service delivery.


In other words, what differentiates businesses nowadays is user excellence. As a result technological developments are increasingly being focused towards delivering great customer outcomes rather than simply as a way of reaching a mass audience or delivering cost savings.


What’s that got to do with delivering healthcare? Well in this regard there is no difference between the way in which we look to deliver customer or patient outcomes. So much so that there is an increasing recognition that targeting healthcare delivery towards an individual patient can significantly improve recovery. For example, we look to gene mapping as a means of best identifying cancer treatments, or we look to devise treatment plans which fit in with a patient’s lifestyle.


One prime example of this has been highlighted on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website. The Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway has linked up with a Glasgow orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in hand injuries. Initial assessments take place via a video-conferencing link with x-rays viewed over the National PACS system. Not only does this save patients the cost and time of a trip to Glasgow for initial assessment, it also speeds up decision-making. If there then is an identified need for surgery, preoperative procedures can be carried out in Stornoway; thereby minimising the time which patients have to spend away from their home base.


This is a perfect example of the way in which integrated technology can not only improve the patient experience but also treatment outcomes. It also illustrates the way in which digitising patient records can help to improve consultation options with patient information being rapidly shared over secure systems. Of course, electronically storing patient records also helps the practitioner; enabling them to call up records quickly and easily as well as saving the time taken in manual filing and retrieval.


Setting people outcomes at the heart of process may require a re-evaluation of the way in which we work. It may also cause us to question the reason behind certain processes, and to evaluate whether there may be alternative approaches which would improve delivery. The fourth Industrial Revolution isn’t simply a revolution in the way in which we use technology, it is also a revolution in attitudes and approaches which truly sets people first.

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