Over the years, the standards of healthcare in the UK have gradually improved, thanks largely to a combination of new techniques and new technologies. And the expectations of patients have evolved to match. Practices and procedures that would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago are now expected.
But amidst all of this change, certain expectations have remained constant, and probably will do for years to come. Patients will always want doctors who are capable and compassionate, even as the technologies change.
By meeting patient expectations, medical practitioners can provide the required standard of care, and thereby avoid costly medical negligence action in the courts. So how might healthcare workers make life easier for patients?
Use of technologies
MRI machines and other expensive toys are brought into certain facilities. Their cost can run into the millions of pounds – but the results they can achieve often justify the outlay. But digital communications technology might have just as profound an impact on outcomes. The convenience of being able to book and track appointments via a smartphone app might make life easier both for patients and doctors. Similarly, consultation via video-chat might make it possible for a doctor to offer advice remotely, thereby easing strain on the system.
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It’s now possible to collect a much higher quality of patient data. This might have profound medical applications, even eventually allowing for bespoke treatments and medication. But it might also help to put a particular patient at ease, by personalising communications and services.
Higher rates of engagement with patients correlate strongly with improved outcomes. Patients who feel that their needs are being taken seriously, and that they are being looked after, will have more trust in the system, and are more likely to return for follow-up treatment.
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Of course, all of the qualities we’ve mentioned thus far don’t count for much if the quality of care isn’t up to the required standard. This means employing staff with the required skills and expertise, and making sure that they’re given the support necessary to do their jobs properly.
Last year, the NHS faced a clinical negligence bill topping £83 billion. This total is almost as high as the annual budget for NHS England, which sits at £129 billion. Any medical organisation should therefore take this as instructive, and make high-quality care its number-one priority.