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Iain O’Neil

Managing Partner – Health, TPXimpact

Leading expert warn that the NHS must upgrade levels of communication between digital systems to improve efficiencies and patient care. 

Digital transformation within the NHS can deliver significant benefits to services through improved communication with better availability of real-time data. While most parts of the health service have developed digital strategies, a major issue lies in the variety of systems in use, which can mean parts of the NHS are not able to communicate effectively with each other or with other parts of the health and care system. 

Digital capability 

Digital healthcare expert Iain O’Neil hopes that the current programme of work to implement electronic patient record (EPR) systems will be used to address some long-standing interoperability challenges. “The NHS has always had issues with getting its technology to talk to each other,” he says.  

O’Neil believes the current £2.1 billion investment into EPR to digitise hospitals, or upgrade existing EPR, is an opportunity to better align systems for improved communication between various NHS systems.

“This huge programme is a chance to move the market and get suppliers to open their systems to safe data sharing,” explains O’Neil. 

We strongly believe in having an impact
with outcomes for real people.

Accessible data 

O’Neil wants to see APIs (application programming interfaces) created or improved so that systems can interface with primary or social care and other elements of the NHS so that patient data is available to the right person when they need it. “The focus needs to be on the user. Patients, clinicians and staff are on a continuum, but it is no good if patients have data and clinicians cannot see it,” he continues. “We need that data to be available and accessible to people who need it — patients, staff and clinicians across all care settings.” 

O’Neil is Managing Partner for Healthcare at TPXimpact, an all-service digital agency formed in 2021. “We strongly believe in having an impact with outcomes for real people,” he says. 

Saving lives 

They also work with bodies such as NHS Blood and Transplant with donor-facing services and the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust (WAST). O’Neil says: “We built an amazing dashboard for WAST showing where all its blue lights are at any one time, whether patients are onboard or if vehicles are heading to or from a hospital or parked outside. That level of new, real-time data enabled the service to make better decisions. WAST told us lives have been saved with the ability to steer its fleet using real-time data.” 

Digital transformation can help healthcare run more effectively by automating processes and helping reduce backlogs to improve patient services. It also has exciting potential to allow staff more time to care for patients and empower patients to take control of their healthcare. 

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