The surgical waiting list backlog following the pandemic is an emergency situation in its own right. Recently published statistics by NHS England indicated that 4.7 million individuals are still waiting for routine operations and procedures (the most since 2007). Any further waves of infections or future lockdown measures are likely to increase pressures on healthcare services, and further disruption to elective surgery, often critical in the treatment of conditions such as cancer.
There is light at the end of the tunnel as the nation is slowly easing out of the latest lockdown and restrictions are being lifted. This has allowed Trusts to resume elective surgeries and start the process of working through the backlog.
The adoption of digital solutions could be the saving grace to help effectively manage the backlog, enabling elective surgery to return to pre covid capacity. Many trusts have fully embraced digital solutions since the start of the pandemic to facilitate normal working for members of staff. By efficiently harnessing the full capabilities of a digitally driven solution to manage waiting lists, maximise operating theatre capacity and conduct digital pre-operative assessments in a covid safe environment.
There is a huge opportunity for healthcare providers to achieve digital transformation by embracing technology and implementing solutions to help manage the waiting list backlog.
Digital Pre-Operative Assessments (POA) are a critical part of the entire perioperative process and an important aspect in helping to reduce the backlog, as this evaluates if patients are fit and ready for elective surgery. A robust digital POA solution allows clinical teams to reevaluate and re-prioritise patients according to their medical needs. A conventional pre-operative assessment that is paper based can often be difficult to streamline and coordinate if the patient has complex medical history and needs further tests and investigations requested from anaesthetic teams. With a digital pre-operative assessment solution, these complexities can be minimised, and a greater level of collaboration is created supporting perioperative teams to manage the waiting list backlog.
Digital POA ensures that at each stage of the assessment and follow-up any number of clinical tests may be administered, medications prescribed or stopped, and exercises recommended. Such interventions typically require coordination between a range of healthcare professionals, from doctors and nurses, to pharmacists and physiotherapists. A digital POA solution places the patient-clinician relationship at the centre of a smart, accessible software platform ensuring that all the information needed to carry out each step successfully is always available making the patient fit for surgery, resulting in numbers decreasing with waiting lists.
To tackle the waiting list backlog and for elective surgery to return back to pre covid levels, trusts must embrace technology and take advantage of digital solutions.