Giving Healthcare a Check-Up

What’s the point of resellers targeting the Healthcare sector when all we hear about is NHS budgets being strained, no beds available for new patients because a broken social care system can’t discharge existing patients back in to the community – and even if this was the case there are not enough medcal staff to meet growing demand anyway? Well, if selling was easy everyone would be a salesman and amongst the problems there are opportunities – not least of which is the transitioning from N3 to HSCN and the NHS Digital’s Cloud strategy.

Being able to know that we will receive health and care if and when we should need it matters to all of us, at any age, but it is all the more salient as we get older. Our population is ageing and by the time we reach our early eighties only one in seven of us will be free of any diagnosed long term health conditions and, once we reach the age of eighty five, eighty per cent of us will be living with at least two. The same pattern can be observed when it comes to care needs: by our late eighties, more than one in three of us have difficulties undertaking five or more tasks of daily living unaided.

When you consider that the numbers of older people aged eighty five and over have increased by a third over the last decade you can see why experts cite a growing older population as one of the most significant factors behind the rising demand for health and care services in this country.

These demographic changes inevitably mean that we need more health and care services than before but the extent to which this is actually happening, with the right kind of health and care services being made available in the right places, is one of the most crucial issues of the day.

With 18.473 care homes already in the UK, Health and Care services is clearly a significant market for the ICT sector already.

The healthcare sector in any well-developed Western country is generally a huge behemoth of an industry and generally run, to a greater or lesser extent, as a hybrid public/private enterprise. Any which way you look at it the UK health sector is dominated by the NHS and is therefore a highly regulated and targeted for performance industry.

There are many commonalities however between public healthcare operations and private enterprises. In today’s parlance this translates in to the need for collaborative working, a dependence upon connectivity and networks and the leveraging of modern digital applications for increased levels of service and customer satisfaction.

The NHS has endured some spectacular failures in the adoption of new technology. Although I suspect we will never know the true figure it was widely reported that the failure of the abandoned NHS patient record systems cost the taxt-payer in excess of £10 billion. The cost to the NHS of the more recent WannaCry ransomeware attack cost a more modest £200k but also many cancelled operations. One result of these technology fails is the fact that one in ten of the world’s pagers is used by the NHS.

The present day ‘big NHS IT project’ is the transition from their N3 Network established fifteen years ago to a new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) to be in use by August 2020 and will support around 35,000 digital connections for NHS England, and more if it reaches its full potential. In addition, Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has launched a new HSCN procurement framework for Access Services – the RM3825 framework .

What is HSCN?

The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is the new national network for the NHS, the successor to the N3 network that has been in operation since 2004. The network enables health and social care providers to access and exchange information reliably, efficiently and conveniently.

HSCN is a standards-based network that means health and social care organisations can buy cost effective connectivity from a choice of suppliers (known as HSCN Consumer Network Service Providers (CN-SPs) within a competitive marketplace and in collaboration with other health and social care organisations.

In order to become an HSCN CN-SP, suppliers must demonstrate adherence to the HSCN Obligations Framework, which is a set of standards that ensure the effective delivery and operation of the HSCN to a consistent standard. The framework can be downloaded from the NHS web site.

In the space available here we can only focus on a few of the many applicatiions specific to this sector and available to the channel.

Jim Eagers, Marketing Manager for UK & Ireland at NEC Enterprise Solutions, has vertical market solutions available for many markets and in Healthcare his NEC iCall literally presses some hot buttons for patients and staff.

“iCall is a Nurse call system that fully integrates with our on premises based PBX which means it has all the benefits normally associated with CPE solutions including reliability with less chance of downtime in a critical environment.

The key feature for staff is that iCall provides speech communication as opposed to just having a buzzer/lamp that indicates a patient request. It’s the difference between a nurse responding to a call for a drink of water or a patient having a heart attack. It improves the speed and effectiveness of response and reduces nurse ‘corridor miles’ as there is no doubling back. It’s IP based and uses existing networks and with a DECT option it means there is no disruptive additional infrastructure to be installed.”

Eagers says iCall can be targeted at care and nursing homes as well as hospitals.

He adds, “There is a bracelet option which is programmed with patient ‘permissions’ and can be used to access entrances and exits for their safety. With only 22% of nurse time spent giving care, iCall will increase efficiency and in a rapidly growing market I would urge resellers to check out the sales opportunities.”

Principally targeting doctors surgeries, Andy Robinson, Head of Hosted Sales Specialists at Gamma, provides his channels with PatientConnect, an Oak Innovation product, which out of the box integrates with EMIS (Formerly known as Egton Medical Information Systems), the supplier of electronic patient record systems and software used in primary care.

“This means that we can screen pop customer records but increasingly important today, we can initiate ‘click to call’ all of which goes to speed up the process of making doctor appointments with patients.
Gamma has been working with GPs for some time with our Horizon hosted telephony solutions where our tag line ‘Never miss a call’ – we can forward to voicemail, mobile and auto attendant was modified for surgeries. Here we created an engaged tone for surgeries but with a call queue in front of it.”

Robinson says it is amazing to see the stats on how many calls come in to a surgery on a Monday morning. “Typically it is 5-10,000 calls with users pressing re-dial over and over again untill they get through. We provide these stats to the surgeries and propose solutions for them.”

Commenting on the NHS transition form N3 to HSCN Robinson says there was never enough competition on N3.

“HSCN will be much more open and competitive and deliver better services and functionality. We are currently looking to join the framework. I would also point out to channels that within the NHS there are many private organisations such as Virgin Care and HSCN who will give those companies access to their own suppliers. You don’t need to be a specialist on the products but you do need to know the business – solutions that are usable for all such as CRM integration and call queuing are important as productivity enhancers and cost reduction tools.”

Building Skills
Mark Elwood, director of marketing at TeleWare, believes that one of the most popular recent trends in digital healthcare is the development of online doctor consultations.

“The use of video calling services, such as Skype, are becoming more popular because of increased pressure on GP services and the convenience they offer patients. Therefore, we are seeing a lot of demand for efficient call conferencing technology and solutions for recording and analysing communications with patients.”

John McKindland, Head of Solutions at Nimans, who also provide the NEC iCall to channels, says that building internal skills sets is crucial in this sector.

“We are not talking about run of the mill telephony skills. These are specialist people that could be deploying a nurse call system via DECT or wireless so a good understanding of these technologies as well as LAN and WLAN is important. Resellers need to ask themselves: Do I have the skills sets to deploy it to my own sales team and can I actually install it and maintain it?”

Where are the Opportunities?

Whilst 1.5 million people work in the NHS don’t limit your perspectives to hospitals or even the NHS when considering the healthcare market as there are many many opportunities in both the public and private sector.

Ian Bevington, Marketing Manager at Oak Innovation, has spent many years involved in promoting and selling solutions to the healthcare sector.

“The larger NHS trust opportunities are nearly always visible, via PSN or G-Cloud and for many of the players in this market it’s all about winning more opportunities by being present at industry events, promoting thought leadership and grabbing industry sector brand and credibility. From a channel perspective typically, 2 or 3 of the usual channel partners would fight it out, supported by the vendor.

Where is the disruption coming from? Digital Disruption is all around and business transformation is a big theme in healthcare, with money available to reduce the cost of real estate, improve operational efficiency and improve patient experience. Tick these three boxes and you’re onto a winner.

From our perspective Oak Innovation’s PatientConnect is a contact management solution that integrates telephony with clinical record systems. It speeds up caller verification, puts information at the fingertips of front line staff and enables incorrect contact information to be captured with ease. With a focus on reducing the cost of communication and Did Not Attends (DNA’s), accurate mobile contact information is vital. In addition, PatientConnect manages campaigns, for example, smoking cessation and influenza innoculations. This helps healthcare providers meet quality and outcomes framework QOF targets and secure additional funding.”

Looking at emerging opportunities Bevington says that clinical record systems are beginning to focus on communication.

“GP Surgeries are moving from post to text messaging for flu jabs and appointment reminders and we foresee the ability to book an appointment on-line will extend to more telephone and video triage in the future. Already there are video triage solutions that work with SystmOne, a pioneering clinical system which fully supports a ground-breaking vision for a ‘one patient, one record’ model of healthcare. This enables clinicians to access a single source of information, detailing a patient’s contact with the health service across a lifetime.

Telecare in the home will become more sophisticated, using broadband and mobile to provide more information and manage family and friends as first responders.

In Bevington’s opinion healthcare is more focused on transformation and tech’ spend, compared to education and echoes the point Gamma made about there being too little competition.

“There are too few solution providers on the Public Services Network (PSN) list and this sometimes results in unlikely partnerships being formed to facilitate a tender response that are perhaps not always in the best interest of the customer downstream.”

For partners wanting to enter and succeed in this vertical Bevington says that there is no escaping the need, just as in other sectors, to understand their business process and challenges and offer solutions tailored to healthcare.

Ed Says…

There’s no doubt that increasing costs, coupled with an ageing population, are putting unprecedented pressure on health care systems across the world. Solutions that can deliver real cost savings as well as improved outcomes will get a hearing and resellers should also be aware of the growing presence of the private section within the overall market.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine