According to Britain’s top GP, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, it can take her up to 17 minutes to logon to her computer at her NHS practice. By today’s standards, that’s an incredibly long time but when you also consider that the 17 minutes could be better spent on consulting a patient and improving patient outcomes, it’s crystal clear that the NHS is in need of efficiency-boosting solutions.

What’s the main culprit of this sluggish IT performance? Well, most NHS Trusts are still running on tired and outdated Windows 7 operating system (OS) which is scheduled to reach End of Life (EOL) in January 2020. This means that after this date, Windows will no longer support this product or provide vital patches to keep the system secure. This is casting a dark cloud of concern over the NHS as only a few months ago, Jackie Doyle-Price, former Department of Health and Social Care minister stated that the NHS operates about 1.37 million PCs with at least 76% of them still running on Windows 7. This in the case for Professor Stokes-Lampard who also contends with the unpredictability of her computer crashing daily. What’s more concerning is that 2,300 NHS computers still operate on Windows XP for which support ended five years ago!

Limited budgets and austerity play an important role in the type of IT equipment deployed within an organisation. However, using legacy technology within such a critical industry leaves the door wide open to severe vulnerabilities and cyberattacks. This can see a breach of sensitive, public data being accessed, leaving the NHS on the receiving end of a substantial GDPR fine. We only need to look as far back as the 2017 WannaCry attack to see this in practice. This week-long IT cyberattack saw over 19,000 appointments and operations cancelled, crucially costing the NHS almost £20m in lost patient care and £72m during the aftershock.

The good news is that there are ways to overcome this headache. One such tool is our Environment Manager. Engineered to move redundant actions away from logon and apply them on-demand, organisations can quickly access their desktop. This has seen companies secure up to a 90% reduction in logon times, allowing them to improve user experience and increase productivity. For the NHS, this could enable practitioners to maximise their face-time with customers and importantly, improve patient care. Utilising Environment Manager, users can seamlessly migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 10 with minimal downtime and the assurance that personal settings will cross over onto the upgraded desktop. For the NHS, this can save precious time as healthcare professionals don’t need to waste time dragging and dropping shortcuts.

It goes without saying, health data is extremely private and should be protected at all costs, as Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, concurred in his speech at NHS Expo 2018. During his keynote session, he announced plans to introduce a ‘digital revolution’ where the NHS cybersecurity will be stringently protected. This is encouraging news as clinical staff will no longer waste countless hours resolving IT issues and instead, focus on patients.

Although the situation may seem bleak, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In order to stop 17-minute logons becoming the industry standard, the NHS needs to invest in new technologies that can drive greater operational efficiencies. These may require an initial up-front cost but by enhancing its cybersecurity, the NHS can avoid losing thousands in the long-run.