Is digital healthcare regulation keeping pace with innovation and demand?

Andrew Farquharson

Creative Communicator

August 18, 2022
4 min read

Digitally transforming the pharmacy experience is in our DNA. We are on a mission to change healthcare experiences by removing fragmentation and seamlessly connecting prescribers, patients and pharmacy. Being at the forefront of change allows us to peer into the past and create new digital pathways into the future, whilst navigating a simultaneously evolving regulatory landscape.  

There is no direct path, but a key question arises. Is innovation being hampered by a regulatory reticence towards the digital transformation of healthcare?  

The traditional Pharmacy process

This commonly encountered process involves a very simple, yet archaic, clinician and patient experience. It has remained this way for around 300 years, and involves the patient visiting their GP, a prescription being written and signed with a wet signature, and the patient taking this to a pharmacist; who then dispenses the prescribed medication.

The process does not end there as the physical script then goes through a post-dispensing journey. It can be kept on-site in the pharmacy for up to a month before being sent to the NHS Business Services Authority. It will then be kept on file there for 6 to 24 months, depending on a range of factors. After this time it will be securely destroyed.

Ensuring data security and avoiding fraud

Whilst the pen & paper prescribing process is tried and tested, it is also open to fraud. It can easily be intercepted and abused by individuals with various motives – financial gain, access to drugs, or power over another individual’s health. We previously explored prescription fraud and how digital solutions can have a positive impact in reducing this.  

The NHS is taking steps to digitally transform healthcare across England, with various initiatives and programmes are being rolled out across different areas. Whilst this is positive progress, there remains the challenge of the high security standards digital innovations are required to achieve, versus the apparent leaky sieve of the current pen & paper system. Certainly, a digital prescription alternative would be smoother, and would remove the physical access points for patient data to be intercepted; either by malicious intent or human error.

Building a connected experience

A key consideration is ensuring that any digital transformation is designed in a connected way - many healthcare companies are using multiple disparate systems to achieve a goal. This is messy and time consuming, regardless of each part being digital or not. The knock-on effect is a fragmented experience for all stakeholders in the ecosystem.

Successful digital integrations to the healthcare ecosystem should be designed with a plug & play approach, enabling smooth integration with existing infrastructure. The aim of digital transformation should be achieving a singular experience, by easily connecting all the parts. From a regulatory perspective, the flexibility to connect different software, systems and data sets needs to be secure, and it needs to be encouraged. The protectorate of patient data, and who becomes the data owner and data controller, are fundamental elements of this evolution.  

High standards in practice

There is no doubt that patient data security should at the forefront of every digital innovation across the healthcare ecosystem. Otherwise, transformative innovations simply become as much of a target by fraudsters and criminals as existing practices, but with a potentially more extreme impact.  

So how do we balance safe digital innovation alongside regulation, whilst bringing commercial solutions to market?  

This is incredibly important as we have seen an explosion in private healthcare companies across every conceivable health vertical, and they are often built upon a completely digital delivery platform. From a regulatory perspective, many processes are still governed in the “traditional way” and the digital health revolution is fuelling new approaches towards regulation in digital health and systems.  

There are some simple rules to consider whilst innovating.

Play to the rules

Healthcare delivery is highly regulated, and for all the right reasons, so it is imperative to know the regulations inside out and innovate products and services that meet the regulations. Often, what feels like restriction can be the catalyst for incredible invention.

Learn from the past

Understanding past processes and failures mean we can analyse the pain points of the healthcare ecosystem and discover the WHY, what still works well, and what can be improved through innovation.

Learn from the present

What is happening right now will set the course for how things will develop in the future. At Phlo Connect we are champions of research, collaboration, testing and iteration throughout every development. Clinician and patient lived experiences inform what we do and why we do it. Healthcare should be easy for every stakeholder in the ecosystem to manage – and it should be secure.

Collaborate with a trusted partner

Working with the right team means you are in safe hands. We are a trusted partner to a range of different healthcare providers and for them, collaboration with us means we can deliver exceptional digital transformation solutions together.

There are fragmented pain points across digital healthcare and there are also steps being taken to smooth these out. However, it seems likely that non-NHS healthcare providers will, and are, leading the way on integrated digital innovation by pushing to the limit of the digital healthcare regulations. At Phlo Connect we know that a fragmented pharmacy experience has preventable consequences for patients, clinicians, and business operations. As the innovation race intensifies, safe and pragmatic regulatory parameters are key to ensuring positive patient and provider outcomes. Knowing what those parameters are is a good place to start.

Partner with Phlo Connect

Contact us to discover more about Phlo Connect and how we can work together to deliver secure digital experiences for your clinicians, patients, and healthcare business.

Written by

Andrew Farquharson

Creative Communicator

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