People and processesDigital SkillsDigital lags behind in healthcare: Deloitte report

Digital lags behind in healthcare: Deloitte report

Two-thirds of senior healthcare leaders in the study by Deloitte say it will take more than a decade for healthcare services to be fully digital

More than one in three (35%) healthcare professionals believe it will take at least 10 years before their organisation is paperless and fully digital according to new research by the Centre for Health Solutions at Deloitte. Among senior healthcare leaders, the figure rises to two-thirds, who cite funding, leadership and interoperability as the three key challenges.

The findings come from Shaping the future of digital healthcare report by Deloitte, surveying 1,500 clinical staff across the UK, comprising doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, as well as interviews with 65 senior stakeholders from across the industry. Overall, the majority are positive about the future digital transformation of healthcare.

Funding is listed as the main obstacle for digital uptake, with 56% of healthcare professionals saying that the cost of the technology is holding back their organisation.

One in 10 believe that it is finding the right technologies (11%) and the complexity of the technology (10%) which is hampering uptake.

Digital maturity, cyber security and patchy connectivity

Deloitte’s research highlights the steps needed to accelerate digital transformation, including enhancing basic infrastructure requirements, improving data storage and access to health data, establishing robust data governance arrangements and improving the digital literacy of staff and patients. Interviewees rate the current state of NHS IT infrastructure as five out of 10 on average, with concerns including the wide variation in digital maturity, cyber security and patchy connectivity.

Sara Siegel, partner and head of healthcare at Deloitte, said: “Digital healthcare will make it easier for people to access services more quickly, while providing staff greater visibility of the information they need to treat patients efficiently and effectively. This will help to bridge the gap between the challenge of increasing demand for healthcare and the growing level of staff shortages.

“In 2019, digital transformation lags well behind where it needs to be if healthcare is to remain sustainable and affordable. Accelerating digital transformation will require a radical shift in the culture and mind-set of healthcare leaders. The variable state of IT infrastructure and difference in rates of adoption of technologies requires more sustained management and investment to accelerate and improve the uptake of technologies.”

Need for further investment

The research also highlights a need for further investment in the basic technologies required for digital transformation, and for this to be widely available across healthcare. Today, electronic health records (EHRs) are the most widely-adopted technology with 91% of staff saying that they currently use EHR’s to support care delivery, but this falls to just 78% of clinicians in Wales.

Uptake of more innovative technologies such as AI and robotics is currently low. Fewer than one in 10 healthcare professionals currently use robotics (7%), virtual reality (3%) or artificial intelligence (3%).

Bill Hall, partner at Deloitte, adds: “Within the next five years, most patients’ first contact with healthcare is likely to be digital. A number of innovative technologies are already providing solutions across clinical environments, and these have the potential to be disruptive if adopted at scale. Digital and virtual reality therapies could provide an effective, alternative treatment to drug therapies or to face-to-face coaching in areas such as mental health. Our complete health history could exist in one place and be accessed by a computer or phone as easily as how most people currently access their bank account details today. Healthcare staff are motivated and willing to use new technologies to work differently. However, many currently lack the leadership, funding, capacity and capability to embrace digital transformation at scale.”

Skills and talent using digital technology

Survey respondents share a mixed view about the current level of skills and talent in healthcare for using digital technology with an average rating of five out of 10. Only 55% of staff feel adequately trained and just seven per-cent see themselves as ‘tech experts’.

Overall, just 38% of survey respondents say they feel informed about their organisations digital strategy.

Karen Taylor, research director of Deloitte’s centre for health solutions, concludes: “Effective digital transformation in healthcare has the potential to enhance the experience of patients and staff, improving outcomes and ultimately saving lives. In order to do so, it’s imperative that steps are taken now to ensure healthcare leaders have a clear vision about the use of digital technology and clinical staff feel consulted, empowered and well trained in the its use.”

Recently, the NHS has been able to replace quite a lot of old technology: Slow internet, pagers and fax machines. Health sector and the NHS in particular has been able to attract funding and technology boosts. AI and machine learning have brought an easier way to manage conditions like the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) from the comfort of patients’ own homes.

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