Recommended best practices for provisioning, deploying and operating digital health systems

The Covid-19 pandemic put an insurmountable strain on the entire global healthcare infrastructure. To cope with growing demand and unprecedented patient needs, it was necessary for the healthcare industry to reimagine the way they delivered care.

One positive that emerged from the pandemic was the increased recognition of the value that digital health systems could offer providers. By leveraging this innovative technology, we can establish new, more sustainable models for the way we deliver and receive care, helping to revolutionise the industry.

So what tangible benefits will digital health systems bring? Through embracing the potential that this technology represents, we can begin to drive improvements in patient outcomes, increase operational efficiency, enhance clinical decision making, and improve accessibility standards.

However, for digital health systems to be a success, they need to follow a set of best practices to support their provision, deployment and operation. Below is 6B’s guide to ensure your organisation does just that.

Plan ahead

Now, this may sound like an obvious step when looking to implement any large scale change, but it’s a step all too often overlooked. Before you can begin to realise the benefits that your digital health system will create for staff and patients, you need to spend time planning and strategising. Start by identifying your short and long term objectives, evaluate how your current infrastructure aids or prevents these from being achieved, and determine which resources you’ll need to make implementation a success. Above all else, you want a system that is secure, scalable and user-friendly.

Choose the right technology

There is no use adopting technology for technology’s sake; the solutions you choose to invest in need to be the right fit for your organisation and what you’re hoping to achieve. When assessing different technology options, it’s imperative to keep interoperability front of mind. Interoperability will allow your various disparate systems and devices to seamlessly communicate with each other and exchange data, enabling the quick, easy and secure access of vital medical data.

Operate ethically

At the heart of any efforts to improve outcomes for patients should be an unrelenting commitment to operating ethically. This means that any digital health system your organisation introduces must show respect for and act in the best interests of patients, adhere to their human rights, actively seek out consent, and leave decision makers accountable.

Usability and accessibility

Another key factor when implementing a digital health system is how user-friendly it is. As a healthcare organisation, your new system will have to cater to a variety of audiences, including patients, staff and stakeholders. Therefore, it must be intuitive and easy to use. Before making a final decision on the system you will choose, we would advise involving stakeholders in the decision making process to ensure all the needs of your users are considered.

Clinical safety

It goes without saying that everything in a healthcare setting must be clinically safe to use, from the chairs in the waiting room to the technology used to monitor life threatening diseases. To do this, any system you wish to implement in a healthcare setting must have undergone a series of rigorous tests to ensure it meets NHS standards and requirements. Documents stating that a digital health system has been deemed clinically safe should then be assessed by a Clinical Safety Officer (CSO), who has undergone relevant training with NHS Digital.

Ensure data security and protection

Healthcare providers preside over a bounty of valuable sensitive medical data, which makes them an ideal target for hackers looking to exploit this for financial gain. To prevent this from happening, you need to ensure that your digital health system is secure and compliant with all the relevant regulations, using measures like encryption. In addition to this, you should have a clearly defined policy in place for staff to follow, stating how data should be accessed, stored and used.

Empower your staff

Introducing new technology is all well and good, but if your staff don’t know how to make the most of this technology, then what is the point? To ensure implementation is a success, your staff will need the necessary training and resources to ensure they get the most out of your digital health system on a daily basis. But remember, training isn’t a box ticking exercise that should be forgotten about; it should be an ongoing effort to make sure staff are up to speed on new updates, new features and functionality.

Monitor and maintain

Much like training your staff, implementation of your digital health system is only the beginning of your journey. In order for your new system to be operating at optimal levels beyond its launch, you need to maintain and monitor the system on an ongoing basis, which includes conducting regular software updates, backups, and being vigilant over security threats. Through regular updates and security measures, you can help protect the community of patients you serve and the reputation of your organisation.

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