There’s a great deal of excitement in the healthcare industry when it comes to technological innovation in patient care. From AI-enabled pacemakers, to IoT wearables and 3D printing of organs, the innovations we’ve seen in the last decade can now help prolong a patient’s life or increase their chance of survival. It’s something we’ve covered in our Future of Healthcare Report.

But the huge potential of technology cannot be achieved without the right talent to drive innovation behind the scenes and deliver better patient experiences on the frontline. 

Delivering difference through digital employee experiences

It is the nurses, GPs, receptionists and many others that interact with patients’ daily. And it is the delivery of the right information at the right time via any device to practitioners that is a game-changer. Faced with the challenge of consistently delivering care to a growing number of patients, in tandem with the shrinking number of medical staff, providing a positive digital working experience to employees has never been more important. 

It is something that has been covered in the Digital Employee Experience research conducted in 2019 by Vanson Bourne and VMware. The survey of employees, IT and human resources (HR) decision makers in private and public healthcare organisations found that digital employee experience is linked to competitive position, company growth, and employee sentiment. For instance, the research showed that 93% of high performing healthcare organisations provide their staff with the apps on any device for their three most important tasks. This was compared with only 47% in lower growth organisations. The research also showed that in a tight talent market, employee experience matters. Covering a raft of measures such as; remote working, platform flexibility and access to apps, across the board employees are far more likely to recommend their organisation if it provides a great digital experience. Much more on that report can be found here. 

Human healthcare

The digital age has opened an abundance of opportunities for more streamlined healthcare operations. Telemedicine, virtual care, AI and IoT, as examples, can improve patient services, often at a lower cost in the long term. While there are fears that AI and automation will replace existing jobs, a successful healthcare worker still has to be empathetic, caring, and have an eye for detail, all of which are very human traits. On the other hand, the monotonous tasks with which staff often find themselves burdened can be reduced with the right digital tools. 

We also have an aging healthcare profession. For example, in Germany 68% of all doctors working as GP s or in the hospital are now older than 50 and 30% are older than 60. Over the next 15 years a lot will retire and there are not enough people coming through to fill the gap. That means less people will have to do more with technology also picking up some of the slack.

Dr. Bertalan Mesko, Director of The Medical Futurist Institute has summed this situation up perfectly saying, “radiologist will not be replaced by AI, but readiologist not using AI will be replaced by a radiologist who does’.

What is clear is that the healthcare industry needs to equip its staff to cope with the additional pressures that an aging population will bring and ensure technology and empathetic human care seamlessly blend to deliver a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario and there are many examples where this is happening. Robots are already delivering medical devices, drugs and lab specimens to wards, allowing nurses to spend more time with their patients rather than running up and down building floors. Elsewhere, portable diagnostic devices are transforming the way in which patients experience different procedures. Whether it is an ultrasound or ECG test, the introduction of pocked-sized and portable, hand-held devices has given nurses the freedom to move from patient to patient more quickly, conducting tests without long waiting times.  

The advent of telemedicine means patients are counselled virtually over the phone or computer screen. Whilst this doesn’t involve any direct patient contact, it benefits patients who may not be able to easily visit a hospital and allows a healthcare practice to reach a larger number of patients without putting pressure on ward availability. Patients can now remain at home with apps that allow them to check skin abnormalities, monitor heart rate or insulin levels. We still want to see our doctor and in many cases a physical examination will be necessary for many years and will be the case. But having a prep surgery discussion or update on a therapy or treatment or to discuss the last medical test, this can avoid wasted time on both sides. Health prevention programs are also making it easier for patients to engage with experts and better information coming from wearables is increasing the chance for an early detection. All of which is saving thousands of administrative hours

Over the past decade where there has been predominantly a focus on patient care and patient experience, we are now seeing the emergence of a focus on Clinician Care and Clinician Experience which is where the progressive enhancements of new and emerging technologies has started to make a difference. The cycle is simple, the more time the clinician will have and the happier the clinician is – the more lives they save, the better the patient experience and the happier they will be. Simplifying and automation of tasks and using tech to achieve things that were deemed impossible before and relieving the stress and workload of staff is the foundation of the hospital of the future.

Example: The Royal College of Nursing

The Royal College of Nursing is the world’s largest nursing union and professional body, representing more than 435,000 members. It has a vision that by 2020 every UK nurse should be an e-nurse, effectively using information and digital technologies to deliver better health and social care. Achieving that goal requires big changes in working practices and the College has a key role in helping nurses make that transition. Working with VMware, it built a digital platform where it provides the training, advice and support required by the nursing profession. Nurses are now gaining the digital skills they need to improve treatment, patient safety and wellbeing.

Pushing the boundaries of patient care

When it comes to technology the requirements from the employees within the healthcare sector is clear. We need to have a system which gives medical professionals access to the information they need in order to make a fast diagnosis and provide the right care in time to save lives. They also need to be able to track patients using IoT data to get real-time insight if there are major concerns so they can be acted upon early. And this needs to be easy.

The IT needs to support staff in their daily work routine and shouldn’t be a burden. Poor admin and doubling up on paperwork are major issues across the NHS and staff (in any hospital) simply do not have time to do things twice. They need an IT system which helps avoid mistakes rather than facilitate them. It needs to support Dr. ‘s to feel comfortable that they are making the right decision securely and without causing any compliance or data privacy risks. And finally, if the role allows it, medical staff also want to be able to work from home or from a conference – they have families too.

VMware and its partners have the platforms and tools to help guide clinical CIOs and their teams deliver a better and more cohesive digital workspace for their employees, whether it’s access to apps from any location, enabling various levels of security depending on the individual; or having the freedom to work from their own device. The ultimate goal should always be to deliver the best patient care possible, but employees have the power to determine the organisation’s success or failure. 

And it is through a digital foundation that enables the healthcare sector to transform their operations and how employees engage. Our cloud, digital workspace, networking and security offerings form a ubiquitous digital foundation that powers the applications, services and experiences shaping the employee experience, patient delivery and business operations. 

Jens Koegler

Jens Koegler is VMware's Healthcare Industry Director in EMEA. He is helping our healthcare customers develop and run modern applications to drive innovation and ensure better patient care through a digital foundation that includes data center, hybrid cloud, mobile, networking and security technologies. VMware plays a strategic role in the healthcare industry. Its leading innovations in enterprise software help ensure consistent patient care and reduce IT access time for healthcare professionals so they can spend more time with their patients. Jens plays a key role in helping customers understand how new applications, devices, the latest IT technologies and digital transformation are driving innovation in healthcare.