Our last two blogs have focussed on how clinicians can benefit fully from ubiquitous NHSmail services, and the role of co-design in delivering digital health services with patients at the helm. Now it’s time to look at the future and start building the platform to help propel health and care towards stellar collaboration.

The UK health sector faces unprecedented demand, with a limited workforce. There are some fantastic transformation programmes delivering innovative new care delivery models and empowering patients to take more preventative steps to stay well. The health system must also maintain a focus on delivering digital services that empower the workforce and provide more seamless collaboration experiences. Organisations, globally, are seeing the benefits in employer brand, workforce retention and productivity.

Here’s what I think will power future collaboration experiences:

  • Next generation user interfaces: today’s type- and click-based user interfaces will become a thing of the past. Instead, technologies such as voice-based user interfaces and augmented reality will drive more seamless ways of interacting with technology. Instead of the user having to know how to interact with technology, the technology will adapt to user needs. The barrier to adoption will therefore be lowered by reducing the required level of digital literacy. Take, for example, the recent work our London Liquid Studio completed in elder care to support service users in their home.
  • Prevalence of omni-channel models: engagement models will become channel-agnostic, enabling the breakdown of artificial collaboration walls. This will enable greater choice for both service users and clinicians in terms of the channels that work for the specific task they’re doing, as opposed to current workflows, where users are forced to use a specific tool for a specific task. This evolution will be underpinned by foundational capabilities like messaging, security, and API management, and micro-services leveraging those capabilities to deliver experiences across multiple channels. Take, for example, how Open Banking is disrupting Banking. As health services embrace a similar transformation, we must learn from other industries and manage the re-distribution of demand placed on individuals and services from adoption of new channels.
  • Human+Machine - augmenting and empowering people: the explosion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will deliver more personalised collaboration experiences, elevate the user and reduce burden. This will empower users to be more productive by increasing information accessibility, surfacing insight and automating repetitive tasks based on the context they’re working in. As more health services become digitally-enabled and information sources become richer, clinicians will have the tools to work more efficiently. A GP could receive guidance based on patient notes, directing them along the appropriate pathway, collating the required information for a referral automatically and suggesting experts they could consult via video call. At each point, insight would be gathered to fuel still more intelligent automation.

The recent NHSmail developments, enabling access to Office 365 services, will provide the foundations to make these experiences a reality. Opportunities will be opened up to improve collaboration, automate communications workflows and deliver chatbot interaction experiences by pairing existing and new services.

The NHS is a unique network of organisations, made up of one of the most diverse workforces in the world, serving the broadest range of “customers” one can imagine. I believe we’re heading towards an inflexion point: we will have the opportunity to re-think how professionals collaborate with each other, and with their service users. Emerging technology will deliver new experiences that improve accessibility, productivity and effectiveness of services. If you’ve got any comments or questions, feel free to give me a shout.

Chris Gibbons

Senior Manager – Health & Public Service, Innovation

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