The Evolution of NHS Communications

The UK National Health Service (NHS) celebrated its 69th Birthday on 5th July 2017 and is just as important to the nation now as it was at its inception in the post-war years.

Like anyone entering their 70th year, the NHS has seen colossal changes in society, medicine and technology since its birth. The developments in medical science in that time have been outstanding, but equally there have been enormous advances in the communications systems used by the NHS.

Vital communications

As the biggest single employer in Europe (and reportedly, the fifth biggest in the world!) the NHS obviously relies on its communications to ensure services are maintained – often in actual life or death situations.

Largely relying on a wired telephone system, the NHS always grasped new ideas and technologies for its communications. In fact, it was a partnership with Multitone in 1956 that saw the pioneering installation of the first NHS paging system at St. Thomas’ Hospital in central London.

The latest technology

In the modern, smartphone-obsessed world this doesn’t seem particularly exciting, but in the mid-50s it was the stuff of science fiction! In fact, so exciting and cutting edge was paging technology that Sean Connery’s James Bond even used a Multitone pager in the 1963 big-screen adventure, From Russia with Love.

From a simple bleeper, the pager began to evolve beyond its humble beginnings and offer more services, notably text messages. These were initially rudimentary, but eventually evolved to offer full messages akin to a mobile phone SMS. This gave medical teams an edge by sending alerts with more details on where and why their assistance was required.

Modern flexibility

Obviously, the online connected world has been just as beneficial to the NHS as every other part of society. From emails and simple web information portals in the 1990s, to the modern highly connected world and Internet of Things, the NHS has evolved its communications strategy to meet the needs and expectations of its patients and staff.

The choice of communications methods now in place would have been truly mind-blowing to the teams that set up the NHS in 1948, but actually, the challenges are surprisingly similar. Any communications system needs to be able to reach the right people at the right time, but also to be intuitive to use and reliable to ensure messages are received.

Multitone’s latest range of integrated communications systems build upon over 60 years of working directly with the medical teams and individuals that rely upon this technology to save lives. Based around our flexible communication platform, i-Message, medical staff can use whichever device suits them and the needs of the healthcare facility best. It is possible to integrate the latest smartphone and tablet devices (via the dedicated and secure Appear app or via cellular network voice calls) but equally to include DECT or WiFi telephones, PCs/laptops and the latest pagers.

Healthcare communications have also evolved to protect patients and staff in busy or secluded parts of a modern medical facility. The Multitone Eko Family range of devices (EkoTek, EkoSecure and EkoCare – NurseCall) ensure help can be summoned at the touch of a button to offer greater peace of mind.

Looking to the future

There is obviously great scope to increase the functionality and abilities of NHS communications in the future. The Multitone Appear app, for example, allows for the secure sharing of voice, text, images and video amongst medical professionals to make diagnosis and treatment options even easier to facilitate.

However, with all this new and exciting technology on offer you shouldn’t write off the pager just yet! By using their own dedicated and secure networks, pagers can get important messaging through when many other options struggle to cope.

Whatever the needs of healthcare as we enter the third decade of the 21st Century, it is certain that communications will be at the forefront of saving lives. Past and present trends suggest this will continue to evolve (and probably diversify), to meet the needs of the people who rely upon them.