THE UK Government must place digital innovation at the heart of new reforms included in the recently published White Paper, and galvanise the progress made during the COVID-19 pandemic if GPs, hospitals, community services, and social care providers are to work together effectively in the longer term; according to a new report released by global public policy institute, Public Policy Projects (PPP).
The ‘State of the Nation: Digitisation and Medical Technologies’ report from PPP includes 12 policy recommendations from the former Associate Chief CIO of NHS England, Dr Harpreet Sood; and Deputy Chair of the PPP Healthcare and Life Sciences Policy Board, Baroness Nicola Blackwood.
The recommendations call for digital-based solutions to be placed at the heart of the Government’s plans for healthcare reforms outlined in the recently published white paper. Proposals in the paper set out plans to modernise the health and care system to make it fit for the future and tackle the needs of communities to deliver higher-quality care in a system that is less bureaucratic, more accountable, and more collaborative.
The report from PPP, presented to the current Minister for Innovation at the Department of Health and Social Care, Lord James Bethell and CEO of NHS Digital, Sarah Wilkinson, urges the Government and NHS arm’s length bodies (ALBs) to use digital solutions to facilitate greater collaboration between health and care providers to benefit local populations, and that changes to system leadership pave the way for greater accountability of services.
The policy recommendations focus on driving substantive cultural and practice change towards digital-first healthcare provision and include tech-based solutions to a number of significant issues currently faced by the NHS, including:
Placing digital innovation at the heart of healthcare reform
Implementing a prevention-first approach
Empowering patients to become informed co-creators of their own health
Legislating better data access, interoperability and protection
Reviewing effective digital solutions used during the pandemic
The report provides analysis concerning the current state of digital policy, performance of policy development against benchmarks, and delivery in the UK healthcare system. Specific exploration includes the practical short-term benefits of embedding digital enhancements to frontline service delivery, where improvements have been observed during the pandemic. Alongside these, the report provides a long-term vision for the transformational potential of digital and data-enabled healthcare, outlining the key enablers, capabilities and partnerships that are required to make this a reality.
Dr Harpreet Sood, Co-Chair of the ‘State of the Nation; Digitisation and Medical Technologies’ report, former Associate Chief Clinical Information Officer (CCIO) for NHS England, and practising GP in London commented:
“The NHS Long Term Plan (LTP), and the Health and Social Care Secretary have both identified the crucial role that digital transformation will play in our ability to meet the health and care demands of the 21st century. However, the recently published white paper highlights that there are still barriers to integrating technology effectively.
“The insight gained from the roundtable discussions and interviews revealed that there is a tremendous desire to embrace the new possibilities of enhancing health and care using technology and data. We need to remove the institutional and systemic barriers in working efficiently for patients and healthcare professionals and improve the widening health inequalities.
“The report calls for healthcare professionals, industry leaders, policymakers and the general public to think and act differently, looking to a future in which population health is empowered by innovative technology and data directs how healthcare is delivered in the 21st century. As our population continues to age, the digitisation of the NHS will enable care to be more joined-up and the structures in place to link health and social care to be drastically improved.”
Published in partnership with Novartis, Cerner, Cloudgateway, Siemens Healthineers, Nourish Care, and VitalityHealth, the State of the Nation report incorporated insights from three extensive roundtable discussions and interviews with over 70 leaders and expert representatives from policy, system leadership, frontline care, social care, mental health, the third sector, and leading players in research, life sciences, digital health, and the tech sector.
Baroness Nicola Blackwood, Co-Chair of the ‘State of the Nation; Digitisation and Medical Technologies’ report and former Minister for Innovation at the Department for Health and Social Care, added:
“The rapid expansion of new forms of system collaboration, and remote care experienced during the pandemic has heightened the need to rethink both the ambitions and plans for the digital and medical technologies agenda.
“The Government will only be successful in its aims to enhance the current structure of the NHS, provide clear lines of accountability, and integrate health and care services if it ensures that digital innovation is at the centre of all health and social care reforms moving forward. The Department for Health and Social Care must build on the momentum generated over the course of the pandemic to drive substantive culture and practice change towards digital-first healthcare provision which is more proactive, predictive, and effective.”
The report heralds the beginning of an ongoing cross-sector conversation on the future of digitally empowered healthcare that will comprise an annual report and a series of events, debates, and roundtables to explore the themes and policy recommendations that have arisen in more depth.