Maximising Clinical Productivity in the NHS

With the NHS facing many challenges in a post-COVID world, the urgency to address the productivity gap has never been more important. This is highlighted by recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which revealed a concerning trend: productivity in the public sector, dominated by education and healthcare, had deteriorated between the third and fourth quarters of 2023. This underscores the need for the NHS to leverage intuitive technology to reduce time spent on administrative tasks, support process improvements, and optimise patient care.

However, hope is on the horizon – albeit speculatively – with March’s Spring Budget promising billions of pounds worth of investment for the NHS. Dr Chandu Wickramarachchi, Chief Clinical Informatics Officer at Epro, gives his advice on how this investment can be best used to maximise clinical productivity within the NHS.

What is Clinical Productivity?
Clinical productivity is a broad term but, when you boil it down, it essentially means the ability to take the spectrum of resources currently available within the NHS to deliver high-quality, timely, and effective patient care.

Engage The Right Tools At The Right Time
In healthcare, one primary solution to improving productivity is to use technology to replace many manual, time-consuming tasks with automation – thus ultimately equipping clinicians to focus on the essence of their role and perform at the best of their ability. However, the key to enabling productivity through such use of assistive technology relies on it being available easily in the right place at the right time. While that may sound obvious, it’s vital that key decision-makers within the NHS understand this throughout the dynamic processes of change management and resource allocation in order to deploy tools which augment rather than complicate the delivery of patient care.

For example, one way clinicians can save time writing up patient notes is through technology such as a speech recognition in digital dictation systems. Not only can this dramatically accelerate patient correspondence, it means clinicians can spend less time in front of a workstation typing notes and more time with their patients – therefore directly increasing productivity through more sustained and meaningful clinical interactions that are likely to detect and act upon nuanced aspects of each patient’s case.

The likes of mobile technology can also support fast, timely access to information while face-to-face with patients. This means records can be reviewed, histories taken, and referrals made all while in the presence of the patient – a process that is productive in addition to valuably building confidence and trust in the clinician-patient relationship.

Training is Key
That said, the efficacy of tools such as digital dictation also relies on how intuitive they are to use, combined with the correct training to use them properly.
Unless staff are capable of operating alongside the specification and features of the technology available to them, the technology alone will not enhance productivity. So, onsite and online pre- and post-implementation training courses are crucial in helping staff unlock the potential productivity benefits. Moreover, when coupled with ongoing proactive education, training, and management support, this establishes systems in place to support NHS staff drive improvements beyond the ‘now’: a key to successful long-term investment of any available budget.

Collaboration is key
Finally, if productivity gains are to be achieved in a sustainable manner, interdepartmental collaboration is key to ensure that accurate clinical data is shared as efficiently as possible and patients receive comprehensive and coordinated care from all involved. This can be done by facilitating a culture of cohesive information exchange between departments and allowing healthcare organisations to iteratively enhance their internal and external decision-making processes for the overall benefit of patient care.

To ensure that the NHS is getting the most out of its valuable workforce, there must be a multifaceted approach that incorporates strategic resource allocation, technology utilisation, effective training for staff, and interdepartmental collaboration. By implementing these solutions, the NHS can navigate its productivity challenges and deliver high-quality care to all patients.