Software innovation – the saviour of primary healthcare?

Josie Byrne, Account Director for Healthcare at Black Pepper Software

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Almost two years ago, David Cameron announced a £50 million Challenge Fund to improve access to general practice while stimulating innovation within the primary care industry. Another £100m was announced in September 2014, but quite frankly this is just a drop in the ocean compared to what is required to salvage patient experience in the NHS. Whether calling a practice to book an appointment or trying to do so online; finding out there is a two week waiting list is infuriating. I’ve been left pulling my hair out so often I’m surprised there’s much of it left.

Thankfully, a long overdue digital revolution is underway and it’s time for the healthcare industry to take advantage. Research shows 80 per cent of smartphone users want to interact with doctors on mobile devices. However, unless you have a far more personal relationship with your doctor than the rest of the nation, it seems almost impossible to contact clinicians digitally.

With the abundance of technology available to the primary care industry, it’s quite frankly embarrassing to see the number of patients waiting longer than 36 weeks for treatment triple since 2011. Accepting this as an unfortunate truth of the healthcare sector isn’t an option. The powers that be need to step up and offer funding which facilitates the kind of service patients expect from such an important, well-respected organisation.

The funds currently in place are a step in the right direction, but simply aren’t enough to support the necessary levels of innovation needed in primary care. Executives are committed to offering the highest quality patient experience possible, but they are uncertain where to turn in their hour of need or where the budget is coming from.

The Digital Marketplace, the Government’s online portal for cloud-based services, will be the first port of call for most applications. The problem with almost 20,000 government approved apps is that selecting the right technology for each element of the patient journey will be like finding a needle in a haystack. Without expert consultancy to enlighten executives on which technology will be most efficient for their practice, precious time and money will be wasted.

Rather than aimlessly searching for the right technology to offer efficient primary care, it’s time to turn to software developers for the medicine the industry so badly needs. Not only can development teams offer in-depth advice on applications which already exist on the Digital Marketplace, but also create bespoke apps for a specific purpose.

With increased funding, the primary care industry can finally outgrow age old communication methods and replace them with engaging, modern technology which empowers the patient, rather than infuriating them. In an age where we can pick up our smartphones, order clothing, electronics and groceries to be delivered the next day, waiting two thirds of a year for treatment can’t be tolerated anymore.

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