Ending legacy procurement practices in the NHS

Allowing smaller, cost-effective service providers to enter the procurement picture will result in more modern and pioneering technologies for the NHS, writes Matt O’Donovan
The current landscape of public sector procurement means that many organisations are locked in lengthy, expensive contracts with powerful service providers. Larger providers typically command the market owing to their size and reputation, leaving more agile SME service providers left out of the procurement conversation.
The government has made directives to counter this issue, namely the introduction of G-Cloud which provides a framework for the public sector to more efficiently source cost-effective service providers.
Nevertheless, the challenges of this process mean that organisations such as the NHS are still compelled to enter into prolonged contracts for their technology or equipment needs which benefit the provider more than the healthcare organisation. Some contracts in the NHS have been upwards of 30 years, meaning extensive profit for the service provider whilst NHS trusts receive low-grade, ill-supported and outdated services with little ROI.
This results in enormous costs for the NHS and the cost on the patient experience is equally dear. It is imperative that these procurement practices change in order to allow NHS staff and patients to benefit from modern technologies which enrich their hospital experience.
The legacy Patient Entertainment Systems (PES) in hospitals are not equipped to deliver the patient-centric experience the trusts are looking to provide. What the NHS requires is an innovative, fully-managed media solution which enhances patient engagement and frees time for NHS staff to focus on delivering expert medical care. Powered by advanced Wi-Fi connectivity, this platform would provide patients with all their entertainment, engagement and information needs in one intuitive User Experience. In addition, a fully-integrated media platform which can be supported on any smart device means the patient can use their own personal screen, thereby enjoying greater freedom.

Patient-centric User Experience
Hospital visits can be a difficult time and the experience is not helped by outdated technology on wards and poor systems for managing service requests, which can leave patients feeling frustrated. Nurses often waste valuable time when they are called to fix a TV or locate information leaflets for patients owing to limited engagement services.
A solution with a patient-centric User Experience would simplify the hospital journey by providing dedicated features for accessing personal health data, general information and educative content, TV and film streaming, games, meal ordering and general service requests.

The entertainment access can be particularly beneficial to patients. Users can get lost in a great audiobook, catch up on their favourite TV series and enjoy a selection of films with friends and family. These simple diversions can have a powerful impact on individual wellbeing and recovery times.
The PES in wards today offer little in terms of a personalised user experience for patients and are typically expensive to watch. If trusts can deliver a media solution which is intuitive to use, available on patients’ own devices and offers the Freeview channels at no extra charge, it will revolutionise the hospital experience.
A media solution with user-friendly tools also gives patients access to educative and informative content. This includes access to the NHS specialist sites, such as NHS Choices, providing a wealth of transparent information on everything from symptoms to care options. Giving patients a direct link to their own records further means patients are better-informed on their health care and what is available to them – they can even watch videos about their specific diagnosis. Such a solution is needed more than ever as the NHS aims to put the individual in control of their healthcare journey.
Ensuring that hospital visitors receive high-quality care whilst maximising the stretched funds is, of course, a key concern for the NHS. By utilising the innovative Wi-Fi solutions of agile service providers, trusts can make great improvements to patient engagement whilst generating ROI. A fully-managed media solution would allow the NHS to deliver a trust-branded User Experience and elevate patient engagement to new heights.
The User Experience is where trusts could promote vital health messages. From friendly reminders to stay hydrated to promoting the latest health campaigns, hospitals will be able to convey educative content to patients through a personalised interface via the device that suits them. As well as the clear benefits this brings to the patient, ad revenue in a 600-bed hospital can bring a potential £15,000 each year, contributing towards equipment and supplies costs. Hospitals can also cut down on their paper questionnaires by conducting surveys through the User Experience. In this way, patients feel that their opinions are valued and hospitals can quickly gather feedback to inform their patient understanding.
Each patient is unique and their hospital experience should reflect this. A media platform which supports multiple languages and customisable text options creates a service which is accessible to patients of all ages and nationalities. Having an integrated solution which makes meal ordering and housekeeping requests easier is also essential for a dignified hospital experience. Previously, a simple task such as requesting a glass of water or a new pillow was complicated by the need to go through various staff members. Through the User Experience patients can send a direct message to the department they require a service from themselves, minimising delays and potential miscommunications. At the same time, this makes precious time efficiencies for doctors and nurses.
Advanced Wi-Fi technology holds the key to creating this patient-centric media experience, whilst providing trusts with valuable patient insight and the potential to make cost-saving developments. Patients want independence, better communication with their doctors and nurses, to easily access entertainment and hospital services and to have a say in how their hospital experience is run. The NHS should look towards those smaller, pioneering service providers who have the vision and the capabilities to modernise patient engagement.

Matt O’Donovan is CEO of WiFi SPARK.

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