Due to a family illness I spent the end of last week in a hospital in the UK. I’m still shocked at the communication tools on offer both for staff and for patients, I understand there is no money in the country let alone the NHS to fund such improvements in ”the patient experience, but surely there is enough research into the ‘healing powers’ of community, interaction and engagement for individuals who are suffering and going through a difficult period.
I’ll focus on the patients on the wards I walked through first, these were normal wards you see in every hospital, being in the Cotswolds it probably wasn’t as bad as I’ve seen (Royal Sussex, I’m looking at you), but the level of boredom on the patient’s faces was unbelievable. Not surprising really given that they could only really read the Daily Mail or The Sun or stare at the other patients. Surely it’s in the longer term best interest for everyone to keep these patients occupied and engaged in the outside world whilst they are in the ward. Yes, ok they are supposed to be resting but no-one will force any mass participation of online activity. So what am I suggesting, here goes;
Specially designed Terminals which offer internet access, software which enables the patient to learn about their issues (what is going on and what will need to be done in the future), a sort of opt-in social network enabling patients to find others who have similar issues and start the building or integrating into a support network after they leave the hospital. Even something as basic as finding other patients with similar interests would surely go along way to keep spirits up.
Cost is prohibitive, but I’d really like to see a study on recovery period and interactions and communications over a set period.
The other side is why-oh-why aren’t Nurses and Doctors walking around with ipads continually logged onto patient database which is updated immediately, after every visit, consultation or change in the patient? We endured the nightmare of watching our relative move wards only to find out the Nurses on the second ward didn’t actually know the full extent of her problems. This would not have been the case had the staff been empowered with technology and not tied up carrying clipboards and notes around with them.
Given that the last national NHS digital implementation went something like 11 million over budget and was delivered 2 years late I’m not holding my breath for any change any time soon.