Craig Pickford, Solutions Architect, Block
The events of 2020 changed the world as we knew it. Overnight organisations had to drastically adapt as new ways of working were adopted at a breakneck pace, and for most, that pace of digital change has remained as we enter the second half of 2022.
At the forefront of the pandemic, Primary Care organisations across the UK were faced with the dilemma of keeping staff isolated and remote, whilst continuing to provide effective and safe care for the patient populations they serve.
Back then the concept of remote working for general practitioners (GPs) wasn’t entirely new, but it wasn’t exactly commonplace either. Many of the existing solutions, whilst good enough for emergency or occasional use, were just not up to the task of providing effective ways to consult and diagnose from a distance all day long.
NHS organisations that had deployed virtual desktop solutions prior to the pandemic were best placed to act quickly, with staff able to work from home and use their own devices to securely access clinical systems and data. But the continued success of these solutions also brought fresh problems; capacity was soon bursting at the seams, and due to the worldwide chip shortage, long lead times for much needed hardware meant that organisations couldn’t bolster capacity quickly enough to meet demand.
With challenges at every turn, a change in approach was needed, and it was needed fast – step forward Block’s Primary Care Workspace.
Delivering a Better Primary Care Workspace
Built on Azure Virtual Desktop and powered by Nerdio, the service has true elastic scale and already provides over 6,000 GPs and surgery staff across the UK with fast, simple, and secure access to core clinical systems. Designed initially as a pure remote access solution, it continues to drive Primary Care innovation, enabling patient services to be delivered in new ways leading to better clinical outcomes.
Based on personal preferences, patients can now choose to speak with a GP in-person, or over a video call, with the latter often resulting in quicker appointment times, faster diagnoses, and more timely treatment. GPs and support workers are benefiting from improvements in work/life balance as homeworking is now seen in many cases as a win/win for both staff and business owners. Today, due to parts of the workforce operating remotely, the number of appointments per day is no longer restricted by the physical space within a practice meaning more patients can be seen each day – the theoretical capacity of each practice is endless.
The functionality provided by the service has never been more valuable than in remote areas of the UK, where finding and retaining trained medical staff has been problematic for years. Now, with the Primary Care Workspace these practices can deliver improved patient services and choice by rethinking their recruitment strategies, unrelated to where staff live.
Supporting UK GPs
This change in approach was needed, At the height of the pandemic in 2021 almost 30% of all GPs in England felt so overstretched by the demands put on them that it was affecting their wellbeing, and therefore they were considering early retirement. By offering the ability to work remotely using effective technology solutions, we’re not only seeing many GPs continuing to work, but many more have come out of retirement part-time, working remotely to assist with the growing health and social care challenges we face as a nation.
And there is additional value being realised at an operational level too. Developed by Block, a self-service portal is enabling Practice Managers and administrative staff to onboard new users, assign access to applications and scale out additional desktop capacity themselves in a few clicks. What could previously take several days, can now be done in just seconds. As staffing levels across different regions have diversified, the ability for practice staff to onboard locums and agency staff in this way is reducing delays in accessing systems, vital to providing safe and effective care and managing surges in appointments.
The Nerdio Advantage
With far fewer technical issues and faster resolution times the desktop experience has never been greater. IT teams are gaining more time back into their day, freeing up valuable time to drive further positive change. The automation features provided by Nerdio, from their cloud-based Azure management platform Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, are streamlining once-mundane tasks including Windows patching and clinical system updates. They’ve centralised the deployment of VDI via Azure meaning that it’s far easier to deliver and guarantee successful change for every user. Automating security and patching is giving IT, and management, the assurance that they remain compliant with NHS standards such as the Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPT). And advanced monitoring capabilities give valuable insight into system performance, allowing the service to adjust dynamically to provide sufficient resources when needed, and to reduce them again when they aren’t.
And the list of benefits doesn’t end there. By leveraging Nerdio’s auto-healing capabilities, Block has built a catalogue of digital workers that continuously check the environment, instantly putting back into place anything that falls out of line. This fortifies our promise and allows us to provide a user experience that is far greater than can be achieved from a traditional PC, or any other solution.
Not Just Better but Greener Too
As our service supports any device, we’re also seeing customers rethink their device strategies, with some promoting BYOD, and others repurposing older devices. This approach not only reduces the overall costs of running their GP practices but is helping to extend the total life of their PC and laptop estates and minimising the environmental impact of ordering new equipment every few years.
Block’s Primary Care Workspace is an all-encompassing cloud-based virtual desktop service designed alongside some of the largest Primary Care organisations in the UK. This new, better way of delivering clinical systems and services to GPs, wherever they are, is helping to transform Primary Care in the UK, supporting new models of care, and driving better patient outcomes.
About the Author
Solutions Architect at Block
Craig is responsible for the development of Block’s Workspace propositions and services, liaising with clients, vendors and peers to ensure solutions meet requirements and deliver intended outcomes. Craig has been helping NHS organisations adopt and realise the benefits of virtual desktop solutions and other Workspace technologies since 2012. He has a diverse range of technical knowledge and skills, specialising in VDI for Healthcare, Identity Management solutions, Mobile Device Management, and public cloud (Azure and AWS). Craig also has a wide set of technical certifications within VMware, Cisco, Microsoft and AWS domains. You can find (and connect with!) him on LinkedIn.