Reflecting on the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, Alex Blakoe, the chief operating officer of Cievert, explores the why new healthcare processes are being adopted. 

The pandemic has produced a few clear winners so far: video call platforms, bicycle manufacturers, homemade bread. However many in healthcare are also heralding the belated arrival of technology in the NHS.

In truth, the real winner of the pandemic is not the adoption of healthcare technology, but the adoption of new healthcare processes – transforming to way in which we do things. Granted, technology enabled these changes, but the hard part is challenging the way in which we have done things for decades.

Apart from producing (fingers crossed) a vaccine, Covid hasn’t necessarily produced new transformative technologies – it’s existing technologies that have transformed processes. The spotlight should not be on Zoom but on concepts like patient-initiated follow-up. Although it seems simple, the risk aversion we see in the medical field means that even the simplest process change is no mean feat.

New and improved processes 

Let’s take influenza immunisation programmes as an example. Traditionally, you fill a waiting room with patients and call their names one by one to have their jab. Due to social distancing measures and increased demand for immunisation, primary care providers have had to change their tried-and-tested approach this year.

Enter: the new and improved process. Some PCNs like Hyde have opted to unite their GP clinics and community pharmacies across an entire region, pooling their vaccine stock, and delivering jabs using innovative methods such as drive-throughs.

Existing IT systems were not set up for such an approach, so Cievert developed a solution that enabled this new process. It’s a digital platform that takes bookings directly from patients, checks their eligibility automatically, manages appointments, and controls stock – all across multiple locations. But this is not ground-breaking in any way, shape, or form: it’s about using existing technology to enable new processes.

As it happens, this new process was extremely successful and elicited very high levels of positive feedback from patients. And, as it also happens, this new approach to immunisation is the future! With potential Covid vaccines on the verge of approval, PCNs have been asked to prepare vaccine distribution using this very same approach.

Once again, the new process will be the real star of the show. The technology will just be an enabler.