Monthly Archives: January 2013

Is a paperless NHS a less secure NHS?

The idea of the NHS going ‘paperless’ has been floating around for as long as I’ve been writing healthcare blogs, and a lot longer besides. Indeed, writing about it all over again has me feeling all ‘deja-vu’.

In case you haven’t been following it, a paperless NHS is exactly what it says on the tin; everyone’s records centralised and accessible at the touch of a button. On paper, no pun intended, it’s a great idea. 1’s and 0’s can’t be misplaced, shuffled around into the wrong order or left on a bus. On top of that, ‘never events’ (instances of gross malpractice), as well as less major mistakes, would be much less prevalent, as it is much harder for the wrong information to be given to key people along the chain of care. Even in terms of money saving, a paperless NHS would make a considerable difference – Frontera is an office of around 20, and the money we spend on paper and ink is… well. We need to get our roof replaced a lot. Because the cost is through it.

So why has the idea taken quite so long to come to real fruition?

What it comes down to, I think, is fear of technology. Easy as it is to brush that off as something that people who don’t understand technology are always worried about, there is a case for it in some ways. Data is only as secure as the person least careful with a password, when it all comes down to it. The most robust security measures in the world can’t combat someone writing down their password, losing it, and not caring enough to report it as missing. Add to that all the recent cases of government officials losing laptops on trains, and you have a public that is rightly reticent about their medical records being ‘in the cloud’. A paperless NHS is a great idea, but the government is reviving the idea slap bang in the middle of the wrong time. Labour put the ‘NHS Database’ plan into action years ago, and the coalition scrapped it in 2011. Growing lack of faith in the coalition will now only be compounded by their weak revival of a plan they made such a noise, not to mention a multi-billion pound taxpayer loss, about scrapping not two years ago. Add to that the fact that nobody has forgotten about our Health Minister’s last job, that of Rupert Murdoch’s ‘Man in Havana’, and you have a 15-minute recipe for low approval ratings.

Money-saving and efficiency for the NHS is, arguably, the most important issue in UK politics at the moment. Going paperless is the right way to go, with predicted savings of £4.4bn year, but the public need to trust it. We work at the cutting edge of technology every day, but right now, I’m not even sure I trust it.

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Consumer Health Technology

Technology is the backbone of everything we do at the agency where I work, and we’re proud to sit firmly, legs dangling, on that cutting edge.

In the grand scheme of things, though, the amazing things that technology can do to make a client stand out pales in comparison and importance to what it can do for the health and wellbeing of their patients. And we’re not just talking about the incredible machinery that saves lives right at the front line. No; sometimes it’s the smaller things that can make a real difference. Things like:

GlowCaps

Alex Muller, junior brand manager, kindly shared this amazing product with me just the other day. He was the inspiration for this post, actually (thanks Al).

GlowCaps are alternative lids for prescription pill bottles. Able to screw onto most US retail pharmacy bottles, GlowCaps come fitted with glowing lights and wireless chips to gently remind you that you need to take your pills. They flash and call your phone when you need to take your pills, they send email updates to nominated friends, order refills and send a monthly report to you and your doctor.

PiOna

This one is at concept stage at the moment, but if it ever gets made, it’s another great example of one of those small things that makes a lot of people’s lives easier. Described as a ‘Star Trek’ style medical device, the PiOna addresses the problems of women undergoing in-vitro fertilization; namely the painful daily injections of progesterone in oil.

The PiOna is a device that not only hides the needle (sight of the needle itself being, psychologically, a big part of the stress behind self-injecting), but provides feedback about when the needle is ready to use and hand-holds the user through the process through audio and visual signals.

JettPak

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective. The JettPak (again, at concept stage at the moment but hoping to be marketed this year) is an adjustable nebulizer, pure and simple. Children with asthma often need treatment with a nebulizer, but this involves wearing a mask and remaining upright – making it a worrying experience for children and one that, despite often being advised to the contrary, is impossible to administer while sleeping.

The JettPak, a sort of classic desk-lamp looking thing, is an adjustable nebulizer with a nozzle on the end, rather than a mask, meaning that kids can lie down and relax whilst the medication is administered.

To some, this kind of innovation can come across as gimmicky, or lazy, or unnecessary. This simply isn’t the case – for many, many people around the world, the problems that these products address can be truly debilitating, as small as they may seem to those of us lucky enough not to have to stick to healthcare regimes. Forgetting medication is something everybody does, but for some, forgetting a pill can be dangerous or even life-threatening. People who need to self-inject daily often register depression levels commensurate with people with cancer or HIV. And any product that improves the life of a child who needs at-home medical attention is a good thing.

The desire to push technology further is often prevalent in healthcare, but sometimes the focus can be on the bigger things, rather than the everyday. In health, as in communications, sometimes those little technological tidbits make far more of a difference.

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Mid-to-Late January New Year’s Resolution

Again, it’s been some time. I’m going to do this properly from now on as an outlet for the posts I’ve been writing for a blog that doesn’t exist and is unlikely to in the near future. So, if you see the same content on the upcoming (ha) blog from a certain ad agency in EC1, just remember – you saw it here first.

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