We have a once-in-a-generation chance to fix our digital infrastructure – let’s not waste it - Bleepa

We have a once-in-a-generation chance to fix our digital infrastructure – let’s not waste it

How community diagnostic hubs, paired with the right communications platform, can create an NHS-wide system that’s fast, safe, cost-effective and scalable. By Dr Tom Oakley, Feedback Medical’s CEO.

We stand, right now, at a crossroads.

One way lies more of the same: expensive, outdated and isolated NHS systems, where the left hand can’t talk to the right, even if it wanted to. The other: lasting, transformational change, that’s at once more efficient and available at a fraction of the cost.

To future-proof the NHS, it’s vital we opt for the latter. And it all starts on the great British high street – specifically, with community diagnostic hubs (CDHs) and Bleepa.

A bridge between patient, GP and specialist

Recommended in last year’s Diagnostics: Recovery and Renewal report, CDHs present a novel way to chip away at the elective care backlog, while keeping patients with cancer, cardiac and respiratory conditions away from hospitals (and, thus, Covid-19).

But where other providers push for more of the same – that is, scaled-down versions of existing hospital systems, making it impossible to integrate with care settings that have a different setup, and reinforcing a longstanding problem – Bleepa provides the opportunity to think differently.

An innovative, digital comms platform, Bleepa facilitates access to, and sharing of, diagnostic information and imaging. Bleepa forms a bridge between patient, GP and specialist. What’s more, unlike any of its competitors, Bleepa is CE marked for medical imaging display meaning that it can be safely used for clinical review of various diagnostic investigations.

Community diagnostic hub pathway

Diagram shows community diagnostic hub digital pathway

And that’s not all. Here’s what else Bleepa can do:

Fast & flexible

Bleepa is a mobile-first solution. This means GPs can access and interact with specialists, wherever they are, via their smartphone. In a CDH context, this enables quick and effective communication between healthcare workers, fewer patient delays and, in time, a smaller backlog.

The cloud, reimagined

Bleepa is designed around individual patients. This means referrals, results and diagnostic data all comes into a personalised stream – stored not simply in the cloud, but a patient’s own cloud, linked to their NHS number.

This is just one instance where Bleepa can help reboot the NHS’s digital infrastructure. Instead of putting vast legacy systems in the cloud (which would require massive data migrations), we can instead create one for every patient, transitioning to centralised cloud storage patient by patient as they come through CDH pathways. And with records kept in ‘glacier’ storage until a patient becomes active, this is far more cost-efficient than traditional cloud models.

Advanced cyber security

Millions of individual clouds make things much safer for patient data storage. Even if a hacker was able to breach the NHS’s digital defences, they’d need to do so cloud by cloud (a feat as time consuming as it is complex), giving cyber security experts ample time to shut the attack down; one breach leads to one patient not millions of patients.

Scalable on a national (or international) level

Built per patient (no massive data migration required), CDHs can be the spark that creates patient-specific healthcare records on a national scale – linked to a person’s NHS number and the NHS spine.

The current small summary stored on the NHS spine – vaccination status, repeat medication and suchlike – could make way for a lifetime’s worth of reports, imaging and results. In addition to the domestic convenience this brings, it could also make for easy collaboration with hospitals overseas (should a British holidaymaker be taken ill), and fast, potentially life-saving care.

Putting power in the patient’s hands

Long term, individuals will be able to fully access, and control, their own records. This allows them to refer to their health information as needed – for example, sharing data for research purposes, should they want to, or keeping their information private if not – without having to take up NHS time.

No more costly, local storage

With a central, cloud-based digital infrastructure, local storage becomes obsolete. No longer will hospitals require electronic healthcare records, nor picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) – just relevant, NHS-wide software.

A vast financial outlay (for IT departments, data hosting, server banks, gargantuan data migrations) will disappear overnight – something that, alone, will save billions of pounds. The same is true for the countless hours wasted retraining NHS staff on hospital-specific tech systems.

Embrace tomorrow’s digital solution, today

We could persist with the so-called ‘easy’ option: extending existing processes –they’re flawed, but also familiar. But why waste another 10 or 20 years on broken parts that cannot communicate with each other, when a future-proofed, digital solution is available today?

Our NHS deserves better. It’s time to not simply recognise what we know is a systemic problem but fix it for good. The CDH programme represents a unique opportunity as it will create a new care setting that does not come with legacy digital infrastructure and is required to connect across provider settings. CDH sites have the opportunity to design the infrastructure of the future.

The results, by this point, are obvious: a better, safer, cheaper system, that’s ready to scale, and empower patients to receive specialist treatment anywhere in the UK, or beyond.

Dr Tom Oakley, CEO
Feedback Medical Limited, manufacturer of Bleepa.

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