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Public and third sector organisations are on the road to digital transformation, spurred on by a combination of factors: tighter budgets, regulatory requirements, and the need to improve customer service and make their processes more efficient.

Many NHS Trusts, Local Authorities and charities are using digital transformation as an opportunity to bring innovation to their organisations, and are leading their sectors as a result. Some are giving their staff smart phones or tablets so they can input and access information at the point of care and reduce paper-based processes.

Others are embracing hybrid IT and getting the best of both worlds: combining cloud and traditional on-premise IT. Cloud-based communication and collaboration services like Skype for Business, for example, provide a convenient pathway to digital transformation.

The need for change

Looking for new ways of working is no longer an optional pursuit. It has become a necessity for an organisation like the NHS to find new efficiencies through digital transformation.

For the NHS, there is a pressing need to do things differently to meet rising demand for services as well as coping with funding challenges. NHS organisations are also required to meet the Government’s mandate of a paperless NHS by 2020, which means the clock is ticking when it comes to digitising processes.

One answer to the challenges, which health, social care and third sectors all face, could lie in transitioning to simple, data sharing and shared-information systems. This is where innovative solutions from the likes of O2 are supporting change in these sectors, by offering a range of digital solutions that feature enhanced connectivity capabilities; specialised mobile tablets for healthcare professionals; and specialist cloud applications and services.

These sorts of technologies are much-needed, particularly in the healthcare sector, comments Alex Walter, Managing Partner, Healthcare, Telefónica UK.

He says that whilst some organisations are progressing well with their paperless and digital programmes, others are still behind the curve. “But I take comfort from seeing some Trusts pushing ahead quite quickly,” he adds, “with some progressing from shared COWs (computers on wheels) to putting a digital device in the hands of each clinician. Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust was one of the first examples of this I saw; Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust has done the same more recently.”

Walter continues, “It’s great to hear anecdotes about the positive impact of adopting these digital devices. Many Electronic Patient Record (EPR) providers have now launched, or are developing, mobile versions of their client software although, in truth, modern tablets can increasingly cope with full EPR applications without the need for application development.”

Prescribing tablets

Regarding tablets, O2 has developed a specialised device exclusively for the healthcare sector in partnership with TETRATAB: The Casebook 3 for Healthcare.

This low-cost, ruggedised two-in-one tablet offers new ways of working that will generate much-needed operational efficiencies. Special features include shock, dust and water resistance, Latex-free construction with an antimicrobial coating, strong security and a six-hour battery life when used continuously – and up to nine days on standby.

Regarding the Casebook 3, Walter comments, “Providing a device with secured connectivity is simply a commodity, a tick in a box in some ways, and just the start of the journey. What will make this journey exciting is the wave of innovation that will come on the back of a connected NHS workforce. From time savings to more efficient patient care, reducing staff sickness to increasing staff morale and retention, the opportunities for positive change seem to me to be almost endless.”

One Healthcare Trust that is already experiencing impressive digital transformation through O2 mobile technology is South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Trust, which provides the widest range of mental health and substance misuse services in the UK.

Ricky McKennon, deputy director for ICT and business development at SLaM, explains that O2 produced a tailored mobile solution to enable the Trust to take its care services into the homes of its patients, and provide mobile healthcare experts with “the ability to make the best decisions” based on having good and timely information.

McKennon adds that manual records have been replaced by the ability to key-in or collect data at the point of care, in real time.

Technology also supported SLaM in reducing the number of operational sites from over 100 to fewer than 70, with mobile technology enabling staff to deliver patient care on the move.

In another game-changing mobile initiative, this time in the third sector, O2 worked closely with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) to make life-changing technology accessible and affordable to the vision-impaired.

RNIB in Your Pocket is a mobile app that understands voice commands, and gives the user access to newspapers and services like RNIB Bookshare - which allows pupils to access books on their tablets.

Claire Maxwell, Reading Services Product Manager (Braille), RNIB Accessibility, says, “RNIB and O2 are working together to ensure that this technology is there for anyone who needs it and that it’s accessible at an affordable price. Technology’s opened up such a world, which people never would have imagined would have been possible. And it can only get better from here. Technology can only evolve further and allow more people to access that world.”

Digital breakthroughs like this don’t just have the power to transform processes for public and third sector organisations, they also benefit end-users, patients and staff, raising morale and improving services.

In many ways, the public sector has yet to experience the levels of transformation private enterprises take for granted; take Wi-Fi for example.

O2’s Alex Walter says, “Our O2 Wi-Fi solution, used by many of the UK’s biggest brands, is also perfectly suited to providing a pervasive NHS Wi-Fi service both for clinical and public use.”

These examples show that pervasive Wi-Fi, mobile technology and better connectivity, along with life-enhancing apps, can transform services in hospitals and surgeries, and better meet the needs of healthcare practitioners and patients. These technologies are poised to make a huge difference to traditionally non-digital organisations like the NHS in particular, with digital transformation providing the gateway to better public and third sector services.

To find out more about O2’s services for the healthcare sector visit the O2 website.

This article is brought to you in association with O2.