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DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY


Courtney Thorne’s nurse call technology incorporates live data and daily reports from its CT Cloud technology.


allowed to become a reality. So what can healthcare technology


service providers do to both expedite the growth in new technology at the same time as helping their customers overcome any reluctance in adoption? A good place to start will always be the


standards bodies, since accreditation to specific and relevant standards gives buyers the reassurance that the solution meets a minimum standard in the way its designed and operated. Where new technology is concerned, however, standards often lag innovation by considerable timescales, meaning that those early adopters take the risk, find the issues which then lead to a suite of standards to prevent reoccurrence of the same issues. There is a middle ground that can be


aimed for, and this is where a suite of recommendations is documented, agreed by stakeholders and used to guide both buyers and manufacturers on exactly what is expected. We can look to such guidance as the Health Technical Memoranda (HTMs) issued by the UK government, which give comprehensive advice and guidance on the design, installation and operation of specialised building and engineering technology used in the delivery of healthcare.2 Similar recommendations exist in many


countries around the world and these documents coupled with cross-border standards, such the European Union’s CE marking that help buyers understand how a product complies with EU safety, health and environmental requirements.3


They


are often the only reference that a buyer can make when procuring solutions to reduce the risk of making the wrong choice.


In the digital age, however, there are


many pieces of technology that are shared across lots of different markets, these will include the smart mobile device, the local network and wider network it uses, data storage function, cloud technology and all the hardware that links these devices together. Fortunately, there


82


Embracing digitalisation comes with a risk of picking technology that could become obsolete.


are standards and recommendations in force, both nationally and internationally since many of these digital solutions are not bound by geography, but how does a buyer know what to look for and where to find them? Research is the best way to find out


what you need to understand and how the introduction of any new technology will operate and how it may affect existing infrastructure. By seeking the right answers from your chosen solution provider, a risk-averse approach can be achieved without having to revert to how its always been done. Some questions that buyers should be asking include the following. l Is a CE marking or its geographical equivalent clearly shown and does the solution embrace testing of their products to merit the mark being applied?


l Are there any local standards or documented recommendations applicable to the solution being considered, such as the UK’s HTM guidance? And has the solution been designed to operate within these recommendations?


l What third party applications and solutions are incorporated into any solution offered and do these also meet with relevant standards and recommendations?


l What happens to the solution should any element fail? •Does the whole solution fail e.g. a wifi-dependent solution? • Is data still collected to provide missing information when fixed? • Is there a short-term alternative when the solution is out of action? •What if the main power source fails, is there a backup supply? •Fast repairs are part local or on the other side of the world?


By seeking information from reputable sources, cross-referencing this with peer groups, sharing case studies, a situation can be found where the risk is largely


mitigated, this will more often eliminate the low cost, and often poor quality, so-called solutions. That leads to another issue often


forced upon larger and public sector buyers, all too often seeking out the lowest cost will not necessarily produce the best value. How often do we witness the lowest cost procurement quickly followed by the supplier going out of business part way through delivery, as his own costs exceed any profit achievable? Or solutions not fit for purpose soon after completion due to poor quality materials and cost-cutting manufacturing methods? While cost is forever going to be one of the main considerations beating suppliers down, racing to the bottom does nothing for quality, nothing for the supplier organisations and ultimately delivers the greatest of all risks to everyone involved, not least those at their most vulnerable in hospital and social care homes. In conclusion, we should not follow


blindly into a world of technologically driven healthcare at the expense of person-centred, outcome-based solutions. The best combinations of technical, digital and human interventions and solutions must be where investment is focussed. Only by taking on a considered risk will innovation be allowed to grow, no matter what the solution is, who or what size the supplying organisation might be look at all the possibilities and ask the difficult questions.


References 1 BBC News. NHS told to ditch ‘outdated’ pagers, 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ technology-47332415.


2 UK Department of Health and Social Care. Health technical memoranda, 2013. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/ health-technical-memorandum-disinfection- and-sterilization.


3 UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. CE marking, 2012. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ce-marking.


IFHE DIGEST 2021


IFHE


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