“The time is right” to begin a revolutionary wave of mobility in the NHS, and it’s been made possible by tighter security and a higher general level of end user acceptance, Buckinghamshire NHS’s director of IT strategy has told Computing.
Speaking at a health industry mobility panel session hosted by TotalMobile in London yesterday, Graham Softley said he believes that only now are devices such as Apple’s iPad – which is five years old this month – truly suitable for use within the NHS.
“[Mobile devices] were designed originally for retail and home use, but the natural progression is to start building those into the enterprise, and I think the time is right now for that,” said Softley.”And I think it’ll take off over the coming years.”
Computing asked Softley about the apparent delay in introducing devices and mobile working techniques into the NHS – practices that many sectors have been embracing for several years.
“To be fair, I think it has already started,” Softley said.”[Buckinghamshire] and a lot of of other organisations have been putting mobile working in place for the last couple of years.”
But he also flagged up a key technical hurdle.
“Two or three years ago we found it hard to make sure that security of data encryption on devices, and iPads in particular, [was satisfactory].
“We have a duty of care to make sure that encryption on devices is up to scratch, and three years ago that really wasn’t there or robust, whereas now it’s built into every device,” Softley said.
“So I think over the last couple of years it’s been gathering momentum, and now it’s at the point where it’s gathering pace and mass appeal.”
Softley explained that an MDM solution – presumably provided by TotalMobile – controls a number of iOS, Windows and other devices across the NHS Trust, with “functionality on individual devices in terms of encryption”.
When asked whether the now defunct Connecting for Health scheme are millstones around his neck when trying to energise board members and end users into using new technology, Softley maintained a positive stance.
“No, not really,” he replied.
“Trusts such as ours understand technology is there to enable clinical changes to happen, and quality of care, and look to the ways we can work in more efficient and better ways as well. Trust board members understand that.”
However, other panel members spoke of “fear” and “cultural resistance” in relation to the introduction of new technologies into the NHS, something not helped by past failures.
Softley admitted there can be a “lack of faith in terms of some projects” due to “something like mobile working needing fundamental piloting processes to take place so we can all understand it better”. However, he maintained that such initiatives are “coming together now, and moving forward; it’s more positive”.
He said that it’s important to move beyond past initiatives such as Connecting for Health and focus on the “phenomenal number of things that have happened since”, describing NHS Mail and the Spine patient database systems as successes.
“Boards understand,” he reiterated, “but we need to make sure we’re spending money in the best possible way.”
Is the NHS dragging its heels when it comes to initiatives to increase flexibility of its working practices, freeing up its staff to carry out more care, rather than travel or admin? Or do you feel that, truly, things like introducing mobile devices take time and it’s right to be conservative? Leave your thoughts below.