Dave Gray, editor of our sister title Med-Tech Innovation, discusses the rise of digital adoption within the NHS.
In January 2012, photography giant Kodak – once the unrivalled leader in that sector – filed for bankruptcy.
What went wrong with Kodak was that its executives failed to acknowledge that a day could come where the art of traditional print photography would be all-but superfluous.
Ironically, it is a Kodak engineer that is often credited with the invention of digital photography. That was in the 1970s. In the years that followed, Kodak did patent some digital stuff, but the truth is, it didn’t want to cannibalise its own business.
Today, Kodak’s story has become the stuff of legend for those who advocate an evolutionary approach to product development. It is one of the best-known examples of a company that had it all, but dug its heels in as the photography market inched closer and closer to an all-digital model.
Last month the NHS Expo closed its doors in Manchester for another year. Wearing my other hat as one of the founders of the website Digital Health Age, I would normally attend the NHS Expo – a sellers event for innovators looking to gain access to the NHS. This year however, I couldn’t make it. My colleague Lu (you will know her as the editor of our sister title Medical Plastics News) did attend however, and sent me a text within the first hour. It read simply: it’s ALL digital.
Why is this significant? Because when we first attended that show, back in 2015, it wasn’t ALL digital. The shift in the exhibitor profile is very telling – it’s now or never for the NHS to digitise.
The NHS is teetering on the edge of its own ‘Kodak moment’ as we speak. Commentators agree the adoption of new technology has, historically, been slow at best. That means the NHS must do it all it can to simplify the process, to foster innovation and thereby avoid disaster.
Kodak had a different motivation for being tentative with digital. It was all about the profit margin. The NHS, of course, has the far more important task of saving lives. In that sense, it is right for an organisation with such a high mandate to act in a risk-averse way.
Having said that, one recent statistic finds the continued use of out-dated pagers across the NHS is costing the service about £6 million every year. The solution is not as simple as just issuing iPhones however. Pagers have one distinct advantage – they don’t require a wifi or data connection.
The good news is that the architecture of NHS IT is set to change at pace. Jeremy Hunt announced during the expo that every patient in England will have online access to their records via an official NHS app by the end of next. Coincidentally, the NHS will also be 70 years old in 2018 – a fitting milestone, and a good opportunity to prove that the NHS can adapt and adopt.