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The future wants an open mind

Healthcare needs to absorb lessons from other industries, says Steve McGuire, CEO of Essentia, the non-clinical directorate at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London. Learn quickly, or get left behind.

This time next year, there will be driverless cars in San Francisco. Now, using just my smartphone, I can book a flight to Shanghai, reserve a hotel room, and measure how many calories I burn on a morning run. But I can’t book an appointment in a hospital.

As we move towards a more digital future, we need to be designing systems around the convenience and needs of people. The digital revolution has as much to offer healthcare as any other sector. It’s

time for politicians, health professionals and the industries that support them – construction included – to think of alternatives to conventional care provision.

If we could act more like the airline industry we might quickly cut waste and gain smaller, more cost-effective facilities. Real-time monitoring, data collection and analytics have transformed the design, maintenance and business economics of jet engines. Could the same techniques help us profoundly alter clinical and care practices? If healthcare embraced digital technology to better monitor patient health, could we rethink the sector’s building needs fundamentally?

In China there is real political drive to make modern technology more adept, and to create a fully digital health system. Digital is where the really groundbreaking stuff is going to happen.

Do the right thing

One way to solve the healthcare problems of tomorrow is commercial altruism. It’s beholden on companies to deliver not just systems for now, but also for future generations. We need to help the industry better understand itself, and get people thinking differently about tomorrow.

The UK has a pressing need to move forward. At the moment, the National Health Service is still reeling from the impact of the 2008 financial crisis. Yet we, the beneficiaries of the care it provides, have become accustomed to a high standard of quality and accessibility in the last decades. Unless healthcare in the UK follows the same rigorous transformation as the hotel, manufacturing, aviation and logistics industries, then the NHS, as we know it, faces a fair degree of risk. Equally there is everything to play for. The societal advantages of creating a more effective and sustainable health system are vast. Business must play a key role in articulating that ambition and finding ways to realise it.

Because of the changes across the world since the recession, there is a loud call for business models to become different. Organisations that share values need to work in partnership and genuinely co-operate, rather than working in competition. Moving forward, we all need to be open to new ways. It’s too late to do otherwise.

Unless healthcare in the UK follows the same rigorous transformation as the hotel, manufacturing, aviation and logistics industries, then the NHS, as we know it, faces a fair degree of risk.

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