Broadband for Healthcare in Whitchurch
It’s easy to appreciate the benefits faster broadband will bring to individuals at home, or businesses. But another area of life going increasingly online is healthcare. The Whitchurch Surgery uses the internet for many different purposes, all of which benefit patients in some way. During a consultation the doctor might use the internet to look up a particular medical condition being discussed, access the latest research and use photographs or diagrams on the internet to help inform and guide the patient. Having quick access to the wealth of information available to medical professionals through the NHS and professional bodies makes a doctor’s job much easier, and helps the patient to see and understand medical issues.
All computer communications between the surgery and the local hospitals are via a secure ‘N3’ connection. This is currently quite slow. Faster broadband will make a big difference to the rate that blood tests and other results can be transferred at.
The surgery wants to upgrade in the next 6 months to a medical records system that uses a remote server for secure backup of data. This will allow patients to order repeat prescriptions as they can currently but also to book appointments online. The same system will allow the practice to analyse and understand disease rates and treatments across the local area, possibly helping to improve the management of chronic illness and will certainly be of benefit when local groups of practices have more say in the running of the health service.
Faster test results
But the healthcare benefits of having access to faster broadband are not limited to the surgery itself. Doctors often work long evening hours at home, reading and replying to hospital letters and assessing blood test results. Dr Paul Barber says “Working from home is very slow, and with faster broadband I could get twice the work done. That means faster blood test results for my patients. Often patients are anxious about test results so we like to get them done as quickly as possible. Faster broadband will make a real difference to my work and patient wellbeing”.
Perhaps more importantly than all this, keeping the local economy competitive will have a major impact on the welfare of the community. When local businesses are under threat people’s health does suffer as working conditions worsen, creating a huge amount of stress and anxiety. Helping local businesses remain competitive would be the best medicine for this.
Planning for the future
The race to win the upgrade to the Whitchurch Exchange is a once-in-a-decade opportunity. As medical and IT technology advances, Whitchurch shouldn’t be left behind because of slow internet access. Dr Barber again: “So much could change in the next decade, telemedicine is one obvious example to help diagnose skin lesions or a video conference with a specialist could help assess a patient’s condition weeks or months before a face-to-face consultation was possible, saving the patient travelling long distances or waiting a long time to see the specialist. Of course nothing can replace face-to-face consultation, but using video conferencing could help prioritise urgent cases or put patient’s minds at rest sooner”.
Other benefits that fast broadband will bring is closer integration with hospitals. For example, X-Rays and MRI scans are being scanned onto computer files. Dr Barber adds, “A patient might come in for a checkup before we’ve seen the scans or report from the hospital where they were treated. Being able to go online quickly to review an X-Ray from a distant hospital will mean I’m better informed and can help patients get well sooner.”
The surgery staff will do everything they can to help patients register their votes for the Whitchurch Exchange upgrade. Voting is free, fast and does not commit you to anything. Please visit www.whitchurch.org.uk/faster to vote.