Data Mining

UK: Data Saves Lives

Paper is still extremely popular amongst NHS staff in hospitals, whether it be through scribbled notes on pads passed from shift to shift and weekday to weekend nurses or critical results that need to be shared by all physicians working on a patient. In the present system, patient notes are created and stored manually, usually at the end of a patient’s bed. By not having rich and up-to-date data, lives could be put at risk on a daily basis. The NHS has realised the need to improve the efficiency and security of shared data, but there are obvious budgetary constraints.

What do hospitals want?

NHS Trusts across the country are struggling. Coping with economic pressures and the “Nicholson challenge” drive to find £20 billion in efficiency savings by 2015 mean budgets are shrinking. As a result, NHS Trusts need to work smarter with their data, in both generating and monitoring it, to improve efficiency of its distribution.

This has led to a call for an increase in the number of IP-enabled devices within the NHS to help the monitoring and distribution of sensitive patient data. However, the issue of how to get data to them and enable them to share this data is still an issue.

The government has tasked all hospitals with monitoring patient care more closely while they are in hospital. Nursing levels and shared accurate data are a constant challenge for the NHS. With the use of mobile devices, real-time patient information could be shared amongst nursing teams to help them improve care and recognise issues faster. For example, personal patient needs on the ward could be monitored and shared in real-time, so all staff are aware of prescribed medicines, dietary needs as well as regular checks that need to take place. Notifications could be shared to inform nurses of when to turn immobile patients, while patients who can walk around could be tracked to ensure they are safe on the hospital grounds.

However, doing all this isn’t as easy as you would imagine. Availability of wireless in hospitals, connectivity and security are all key barriers. Consider, for example, the way hospitals are built with thick walls between patient rooms, wards, surgery, etc. This all impacts network availability. Many of our hospitals are not fully Wi-Fi enabled, let alone have reliable wireless systems in place. So what can be done?

What about the device manufacturers?

To achieve the goal of increasing the amount of IP-enabled devices and the efficiencies these will bring within the NHS, it first needs to resolve the limitations and challenges of data distribution by speeding up the delivery of content and optimising data sent and received over unreliable networks. NHS Trusts need to partner with companies that can cope with the hard part of data distribution, but also ones that are working hand in hand with the manufacturers. There is no point in partnering with one in isolation, as one size won’t fit all.

Furthermore, NHS Trusts need to work with vendors of devices and software to ensure accurate patient information is delivered timely, over potentially unreliable networks. The key to achieving this is the ability to intelligently understand data and automatically remove out of date or redundant data. This is vitally important as, for example, devices can gather a lot of data. Time of day, administration of treatment activity, body temperature, body vitals such as heart rate need to be carefully considered, and distributed when a patient is at risk.

Once a way of distributing the data has been achieved within a hospital infrastructure, the next step to look at is the device being used. Be it a tablet or wearable tech, it is important to remember that not all platforms are created equal and bandwidth restraints must be overcome to ensure data is prioritised and sent quickly to help save lives.

This will offer a clean, seamless experience for end users as they only receive relevant and up to date data. It also allows NHS trusts to reduce the amount of infrastructure and bandwidth consumption required to distribute data to web and mobile applications, on any internet connected device.

In reality, to build and deploy high-performance multi-platform mobile and web applications that can scale across platforms, delivering accurate, real-time data is a challenge. However, it is possible.

Meeting of minds

By working together, data delivery providers, manufacturers and NHS Trusts can build an application that will provide real-time data communication and quality of service, while allowing vast amounts of live data to be sent to and from the application, regardless of the quality of the mobile network or the device being used.

By bringing these two parties together, significant cost and care benefits can and will be improved.

This may sound like a pipe-dream but partnerships are already emerging within the NHS. It aims to use the vast sways of data available to create platforms capable of revolutionising the management of chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Tailored technology could help with the administration of drugs remotely for those who need care away from the hospital, or the ability to track patients with cognitive difficulties to keep them safe.

If this can be achieved, the NHS can get on with what it does best, saving lives. 


Lee Cottle is Vice President Global Head of Sales at Push Technology



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