Innovation and changeDigital TransformationBuilding a digitally enabled NHS is a challenge

Building a digitally enabled NHS is a challenge

In her speech at an event, Health Minister said that barriers to the reforms must not stop the progress to digitally enabled NHS because #DataSavesMoreLives

A fully digitally enabled NHS is a challenge, commented Health Minister Nicola Blackwood at an event hosted by the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC). She presented the opening keynote for the event which was held on 27 March 2019 at RocketSpace, London

Delving into Digital brought together key sector players from government and technology companies who will partner and collaborate with AMRC member charities. The event was into its third year and aimed at:

  • Those responsible for digital and/or data within their medical research charity
  • Technology companies who are or would like to network with medical research charities

Pockets of reluctance

Nicola Blackwood acknowledged the fact the there is averseness by older adults towards using digital financial products like mobile banking. She referred to this as pockets of reluctance.

She said: “Make no mistake, though, things are changing. Take primary care. Research by the King’s Fund, Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that well over half of all patients, no matter their age, want to access online GP services.

“I want to see transformation akin to that provided in Tower Hamlets by e-clinics for those with chronic kidney disease. These e-clinics provide a single patient pathway, with rapid access to specialist advice by consultants. Since the e-clinic began in 2015, 50% of referrals are managed without the need for a hospital appointment, and the average waiting time for a renal clinic appointment has fallen from 64 days to five.

“Inspired by the Secretary of State’s Tech Vision, I also want to gut the internal wiring of the NHS, and deliver real interoperability of health data and technology.”

Access to digital primary care services

In the Long Term Plan, the NHS made the commitment that in the coming years every NHS patient will be able to access digital primary care services, under a digitally enabled NHS.

Through it’s new GP contract and the GP IT Futures Programme, the NHS is stripping out barriers to innovation and experimentation. This will allow new service models to flourish.

In acute care, it wants to give patients the opportunity to access services digitally. Patients will thus avoid the daily, weekly, or monthly trudge that many make to the nearest hospital.

Nicola said: “By working together to get this right, I genuinely believe it will be good for quality of care, good for efficiency of services, and good for staff and patients.”

A digital transformation team

With the launch of NHSX in the next few days, NHS has a unit that will take forward transformation to a digitally enabled NHS. It will allow patients and staff to benefit from the latest digital systems and technology.

The organisation will use experts in technology, digital, data, and cyber security to deliver on the Health Secretary’s tech vision and the Long Term Plan for the NHS.

NHSX will work closely with the Government Digital Service and other central government functions to learn from their experiences. This will ensure that there is continued alignment with the Digital, Data and Technology profession across the government. The CEO of NHSX will have strategic responsibility for setting the national direction on technology across organisations. The CEO will be accountable to the Health Secretary and chief executives of NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Nicola said: “Our new unit, NHSX, which ‘goes live’ in 12 days, will play a vital role in driving forward this agenda, and bringing together partners from across the health and care system to radically improve the digital provision and organisation of services.”

Fully exploiting digital opportunities

The UK has strong life sciences credentials. One-fourth of the most used medicines globally are developed in the UK, using a public and philanthropic research infrastructure.

It will be difficult to maintain this kind of record in an ever more competitive global environment. The government will have to fully exploit the opportunities offered by digital. Working in partnership will be central to everything to do on the digital and wider life sciences and research agenda. The life sciences sector deal is a leading part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

Nicola added: “First, we must make our world-leading data assets more accessible. That is why, in collaboration with Health Data Research UK, I am driving forward the development of the Digital Innovation Hubs. Through our £37.5 million investment, we will make the NHS’s data assets radically more accessible and usable by researchers and innovators.

“Second, we must accelerate the development of innovative digital products. We have provided over £100 million to support the development and adoption of innovative healthcare products, including £35 million for the digital health technology catalyst.

“Third, the generation, collection and analysis of real world data has been recognised as a major enabler for the optimal use of digital medical products in clinical practice.

“Finally, we must ensure that when effective products have been developed, there is rapid uptake. That is why we have established and empowered the Accelerated Access Collaborative, under the chairmanship of Lord Darzi.”

No right to patients’ data

The lives of patients across the country will be profoundly improved by digital technology. However, the government does not have a right to patients’ data or their engagement in digital programmes and activities. They must earn this by gaining and retaining their trust.

Nicola said: “If we do not think about issues such as transparency, explicability, and bias, it is also possible that the increasing use of digital technologies within the health and care system could cause unintended consequences.

“That is why the code clearly sets out the behaviours we expect from those developing, deploying and using such technologies, to ensure that all those in this chain abide by the ethical principles for digital initiatives developed by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics: respect for persons, respect for human rights, participation, and accountability for decisions”

Nicola concluded saying that she looks forward to working with the AMRC – not only to ensure building trust but also to ensure that data saves more lives.

Recently published research from THC highlighted resourcing and funding challenges required to develop meaningful programmes that support NHS Long Term Plan.

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