Check your vital signs: are the new expectations of digital healthcare realistic?

Time to check your vital signs: are the new expectations of digital healthcare realistic?


Mark Burton

Mark Burton

Health Sector & Ambulance Lead

Virgin Media O2 Business


5 minutes

07th June 2022

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Could digital technology be the answer to transforming health sector services and creating an easier, safer way to access information for both users and providers?


After all, utilising technology to support patient care isn’t anything new for the health sector. But time has shown that transformation is often anything but straightforward, and there are several challenges that stand in the way — budgetary restraints, security and issues around interoperability, to name a few.


While the pandemic pushed the UK’s health and social care sectors to the edge, it also gave them the impetus to transform these areas on an unprecedented scale. In fact, as a result of Covid-19 forcing organisations to adapt, digital transformation in health and social care accelerated by up to five years.


Yet much like any emerging technology, many people initially didn’t trust health innovations like digital healthcare appointments.


Patients were reluctant – even nervous – to use apps and websites for accessing services or for tracking their health data. And while many people are still nervous around digital technology in healthcare, confidence amongst the majority is growing as they start seeing the benefits for themselves.


Organisations have also reaped the benefits and are continuing to encourage technology adoption with their patients and staff. Today, 35% of UK patients use virtual consultations, compared to just 6% pre-pandemic, according to Accenture. And a further 14% use electronic patient records to access their data versus 4% previously. So, as our health and social care sectors look to capitalise on the potential of digital, what comes next?

Raising the bar for patient healthcare

As organisations establish their new normal, the challenge will be maintaining the pace of digital change in a sector known for its legacy battles with technology.


There can be no going back to the old ways of working. Digital transformation has brought us virtual management of patient care, remote monitoring, online consultations and much more. By December 2023, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) expects to have developed virtual wards that provide 40-50 virtual beds per 100,000 of the population – remotely measuring patients temperature and blood oxygen rates. All of this innovation has allowed the health and social care sector to create an improved, more personalised, level of care for patients.


In a sector that faces significant staffing pressures and increasing employee burnout, technology has gone some way to easing the load – allowing staff to manage conditions that don’t require surgery with information and exercises facilitated by digital technology.


Then there are innovations such as the NHS My Planned Care. My Planned Care is an online platform that allows patients and their carers to access information from 137 NHS Trusts across England ahead of their planned appointment, operation or treatment. All at the touch of a button.


It’s improvements like this that are raising the bar for digital healthcare – and this leads to higher expectations from staff and patients alike.


It’s vital that we accelerate the digital capabilities of our health and social care services to meet these expectations. Digital technology has the potential to transform the delivery of care and patient outcomes. But our NHS trusts shouldn’t be left to deal with the associated challenges alone.


Which is why they need a partner who is willing to step up and support them – one which is committed to their goals and, ultimately, helping them to help others.


That might mean helping to provide digital mental healthcare for those who can’t journey to clinics, such as at the Richmond Wellbeing Service. Or helping a customer connect the dots and achieve interoperability across their network, to ensure patients get a quicker diagnosis – as O2 Business saw with mydentist and its network of more than 600 UK dental practices.


Or it could mean potentially saving lives through the 24/7 Telestroke service at Royal Blackburn Hospital, allowing for remote stroke diagnosis out of hours and rapid response times.


Ultimately, better integrated health and care systems allow patients quicker and easier access to the treatment they need. This is about improving lives, and making things more cost-effective for the NHS in the long-term.

Health organisations, it’s time to expect more

In a fast-moving, ever-changing landscape, health organisations have to make sure that digital investments are focused on the bigger transformational picture. They need to create better experiences for patients and employees.


If a patient isn’t put first and given a seamless experience by their health service, then it isn’t hitting its goals — therefore missing out on the promise of digital transformation.


At Virgin Media O2 Business, we offer a Success Agreement – which goes above and beyond the usual Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to create an ongoing commitment to customer success.


That might mean outcomes like improved employee and patient experience, happier and more productive employees or enhanced delivery of healthcare services.


By sharing the risk as well as the reward, a digital partner can walk the journey alongside health organisations as they tackle the sector’s key challenges.


To find out more about our Success Agreement and how it could benefit your organisation, visit our dedicated page here.