Future-proofing digital infrastructure for all could hold the key to transforming healthcare

In the past year, the national effort to combat COVID-19 has seen GP practices and hospitals in Portsmouth adapt to provide a wide range of crucial services, from remote diagnosis and treatment to symptom tracking and online test booking. All across the UK, email, telephone and video consultations have replaced face-to-face appointments, the public have flocked online to book testing slots and millions of us have turned to healthcare apps and web platforms to check symptoms and stay informed.

It’s clear that health and wellbeing services have had to evolve rapidly as we all adapt to the new normal. This major shift, which the health service now wants to drive forward, has succeeded in making many services more accessible and more efficient than ever before, even for the most remote or vulnerable of patients.

Full Fibre – a foundation for digital transformation

But, for the digital-first NHS strategy to succeed in the long term and deliver the countless benefits it promises, the nation needs to future-proof the infrastructure that will underpin this revolution.

The UK Government’s current aim is for every NHS hospital, GP practice and community care service to be given access to full fibre broadband, as soon as possible. However, there is little point of super-charging our hospital networks if patients at home cannot access services because of poor connectivity.

Digital services will only reach their full potential to drive efficiency, address health inequality and integrate with wider health and care services once full fibre is within reach of every community.

Building a digital future

As the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform, CityFibre is one of the companies on the frontline of building full fibre infrastructure across the UK, with construction now live in over 60 towns and cities, and more than new projects coming online soon. As part of this goal, we’re investing £35m in Portsmouth to roll out a city-wide full fibre network that will future-proof its digital infrastructure for decades to come.

Ultimately, we want full fibre to be the standard communications infrastructure across the UK; not just for public services, but for citizens and businesses too. This will be a critical element in ensuring communities across Portsmouth can use online health services effectively and that the shift to digital healthcare means no one is left behind.

Unlocking digital innovation

Of course, in a post COVID-19 world, there will still always be a place for face-to-face interaction with healthcare services. But, the goal with digitisation is not to replace this crucial element; it is to enhance it and create choice for citizens. What’s more, innovation in this space is unlocking new insights into healthcare, making it possible to develop new therapies and approaches that could strengthen health and care services in the face of perhaps more, as yet, unknown challenges.

Harnessing analytics and AI, for example, is already proving invaluable in the diagnosis and treatment of various cancers, while data platforms have allowed for rapid research into the spread and risk factors associated with COVID-19.

Digital transformation takes countless forms and does not always mean remote – its application stretches as far as our imagination can take us. Ultimately, with the right enabling digital
infrastructure, more technology within our healthcare provision will provide a vehicle for a complete re-imagination of health and care services in communities just like Portsmouth. One that reflects the challenges, opportunities and priorities of today and helps ward against future threats as they arise.

To find out more about the work that CityFibre is doing in Portsmouth to provide full fibre, please go to cityfibre.com/your-street.