Belfast Telegraph

Technology proves a game changer in health and care

 

By Kevin McEnoy

Technology enables our health and social care services to meet rising demands and to transform how we deliver those services for people in hospitals, the community and in their own home.

Not only can it make patients more comfortable, it can help ensure more accurate and faster diagnosis and treatment while also easing the burden on healthcare staff and budgets.

If technology came in pill form, it would be known as a wonder drug.

The South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust knows more than most about the value that the latest technology can provide to such an organisation, and therefore set about a wholesale upgrade of ageing communications and data infrastructure.

With its remit encompassing the Ulster Hospital, Lagan Valley Hospital, Downe Hospital and both Ards and Bangor Community Hospital, as well as a host of other smaller sites - the task wasn't a small one.

Stephen Stewart, assistant director of technology and telecommunications at the trust, said: "Our objective is to help our colleagues deliver improved patient outcomes faster through use of technology.

That sounds simple enough, but the work needed to put that into practise was not inconsiderable.

"We consolidated the number of disparate telecommunications platforms from 15 down to one, we delivered local data centre and virtualised services for the 11,000 trust staff and we introduced a single sign-on infrastructure which allows staff to be much more productive when they're using technology," he said.

"A large number of system changes have been extremely successful in allowing clinical systems to start making an impact on how patient care is delivered, while introducing free guest Wi-Fi has made our facilities a more welcoming place for patients and their friends and family."

To carry out such a transformation called for a partner with a deep skill base and pedigree.

The trust turned to BT, a company which has become a trusted partner.

Kevin McEnoy, Head of Health Sector at BT Business in Northern Ireland, said: "The work initially focused on the Ulster Hospital and involved a holistic and robust review of their technology requirements. The immediate need was to relocate and upgrade the trust's data centre.

The BT solution was installation of two high availability POD data centres from which all futures services could be delivered throughout the trust."

"The trust then turned to transforming links to their community sites with BT Ethernet Connect over superfast broadband which allowed VOIP telephone systems to be used - giving users of any telephone throughout the Trust the same experience. Video conferencing was also introduced which has saved staff countless hours travelling between sites."

Nowadays more and more healthcare services are delivered in the patient's home or community health centres. BT worked with a partner to configure and deploy almost 3,000 iPad devices through a zero touch deployment programme for both acute and community staff. Devices were effectively set up and configured via the cloud with very little requirement from IT staff.

"Partnership through transformation has been at the heart of how we work and it has made the relationship with the trust work well," Kevin said.

Stephen agreed.

"Such a huge project hasn't been without its challenges but BT understands our organisation and the issues and opportunities that sit within it. They understand how we want to work and how we expect to work with them."

But for proof on how the project has impacted the care of patients, it's worth hearing from Dr Roy Harper, consultant physician and endocrinologist. "On the ward rounds we use iPads or computers on wheels, in our offices we can quickly access everything we need," he said.

"There is no doubt this technology has benefited patients and allowed us to provide better patient care. We've carried out lots of different evaluations and they have shown quite clearly that it has allowed us to make better, faster and safer decisions and deliver better, faster and safer care for our patients."

For further information and to contact BT Business in Northern Ireland, please email enterprise.accounts@bt.com

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