British National Health Service confirms plans for smarter use of IT in healthcare

The UK Government this week confirmed plans for smarter use of IT in healthcare. The goal of digitising patient records is to save £5bn a year while improving the quality of patient care by making it easier for medical staff to share and access records. Tight deadlines mean new infrastructure will need to be deployed rapidly and with minimum disruption or delay.

But this kind of project comes with huge risks. The UK health care organisation, the National Health Service (NHS) deals with over one million patients every 36 hours and the experience of developing and deploying the IT infrastructure to support the service has been troubled. The most recent project to create a centralised database was scrapped in 2011 after costing taxpayers over £6 billion.

So the decision of the current government to focus on supporting local schemes that roll-out healthcare IT improvements in accordance with national standards seems sensible. Also in seeking to bring the benefits of digital medicine within tight spending budgets, this should encourage the NHS to consider how desktop virtualisation can offer a more affordable, scalable and flexible platform for enabling NHS staff to access and share patient records.

Next generation virtual desktop environments like Citrix are ideally suited to address these requirements. The technology allows you to re-purpose old equipment, add mobility and widen access through new low cost and low power devices such as NComputing’s N-series family.  In fact, these state of the art non-PC devices are ideally suited to the sensitive clinical environments into which computing could be extended under this plan. They have a smaller form factor, thus freeing up valuable space in a ward or treatment room, and are very easy to keep clean because they have no fans to retain or disperse bacteria or dust. Add to this lower sound and heat emissions and you can envisage how thin clients can be seamlessly part of any clinical setting.   

Today’s announcement doesn’t go into the details of what platform will be used – this is a decision that will be made at a local level. But given the scale of this project and the determination for best value for the money, it would be natural for NHS organisations take virtual desktops and apps more seriously because of the potential capital and operational savings, and significantly better end user experience for both patients and staff.  And what is being discussed in the UK has parallels in other parts of Europe and beyond.