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2nd August 2022

NHS Digital seeks to improve services through wireless technology

NHS Digital is running a number of trials to explore how cutting-edge wireless technologies can support the delivery of better patient care.

The remarkable progress in wireless technologies has caused considerable improvement in personal communications. There has been a great impact due to the rapid expansion of mobile communications and wireless networks for voice, picture and video transfer, internet access, and other data transfer applications. The development of wireless communications has influenced almost all day-to-day activities, including household activities, occupational, leisure, sports, healthcare activities, displacements, and even human relationships, thereby causing an increase in the interest in ubiquitous communications.

In the healthcare system, the evolution of wireless communication systems has improved the effectiveness of patient care and health management. There are several scenarios of applicability of wireless networks in the healthcare system, some of which are highlighted below:

Hospital Management Networks

The network infrastructure of hospitals not only provides typical data transfer services like email, web connectivity, intranet, corporate hospital services, and many others, but also provides a wide variety of medical applications, including storage, patient information treatment and processing, access to medical records, images and video transfer, and so on.

Ubiquitous Healthcare Networks

An intrinsic property of mobile applications is their ubiquity, making it possible to perform patient care regardless of the patient’s location. Personal area networks (PANs) are formed by telemetry sensors and devices such as a smartphone which acts as a gateway or router, collecting information from the sensors to send it to the control centre. These networks provide patient care in an outdoor environment and can be considered a smart health (sHealth) solution in which personal and environmental sensors work together, and eHealth solutions collaborate with the smart city facilities and services.

This type of network also uses portable devices of telemetry, provided with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth wireless communication interfaces, to monitor vital parameters, thereby transmitting an alarm to the central server when an abnormality is detected.

The new systems of communication-based on emerging wireless technologies enable interaction between people and objects, or among either. New concepts such as the internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) have been coined.

Contrastingly, the increasing use of the new communications applications based on wireless technologies has caused an increase in the levels of electromagnetic fields (EMF) in healthcare environments. EMFs are produced by a great range of radiation sources, such as personal communication devices, electrical equipment, consumer products, and office equipment. The use of wireless communications alters the electromagnetic environment, consequently resulting in a need to assure the safety of patients, professionals, and the general public, as well as guarantee the correct working conditions of electric and electronic equipment and electromedical devices. These new wireless healthcare systems require the evaluation of the impact of exposure levels to ensure compliance with the established standards of protection of health.

NHS Digital and Wireless Technology

NHS Digital is the national provider of information, data and IT systems for commissioners, clinicians and analysts in health and social care in England. It is currently running a series of trials, seeking to explore how cutting-edge wireless technologies can support the delivery of better patient care.

Using more mobile technology to promote care provision where and when it is needed, in order to reduce backlogs and speed up access to care is desperately needed in the NHS. In promoting these technologies, the NHS will have the chance to lead innovation that could be exported to other healthcare systems and ensure that new health technologies continue to play a strong role in British exports, Petra Wilson, HIMSS senior advisor, European health policy & EU affairs, had said.

She also emphasized the importance of ensuring that the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill released on 18th July allows the UK to maintain its GDPR equivalence rating if such exports were to go to the EU. These reforms are necessary for maintaining a free flow of personal data from the European Economic Area. Maintaining this compatibility is absolutely needed for the UK to make the most of the wireless technology to improve patient care both within and outside traditional healthcare settings.

As the NHS seeks to implement new models of care to allow patients to receive treatment at home or in mobile health settings, wireless technologies will continue to play an increasingly important role. They will allow clinicians access to data and digital systems wherever and whenever they need it. There are many benefits of cutting-edge wireless technology and innovation, such as enabling real-time remote diagnosis in a mobile health unit and supporting live observations in the first 5G hospital in the UK.

This is an advancement in digital transformation and it will bring an array of benefits, especially for those least able to access healthcare and for digitally isolated hospitals and health centres.


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