The recent paper from the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee, Digital transformation in the NHS, arguably serves as a stocktake of the level of digital maturity achieved thus far.
Put together by an expert panel, on the one hand it acknowledges major achievements such as the NHS App, but also highlights ‘substantial variation’ in the UK at present, characterised by outdated IT in many areas of the system, and a need to fill a persistent, ongoing digital skills gap.
The paper outlines a number of recommendations in areas such as innovation, systems, interoperability and training. Here in our short read brief, we unpack some of the key takeaways.
Variation in digital maturity
The report acknowledges previous attempts made to achieve digital transformation by preceding governments with varying degrees of success. These have been limited by a number of factors according to the committee’s findings. A chief one being a ‘preponderance of old, out-of-date “legacy” IT systems and hardware.’
Cases highlighted include old instances of operating systems and scenarios whereby PCs can take up to 15 minutes to turn on before staff can access their clinical system. Thus, there is a need to level up technology and infrastructure for the future to handle the demands of a modern digital health service.
Additionally, the vision for an integrated digital health and care record and fully paperless NHS remains unrealised in some areas, the committee believes. Indeed, while the successes of primary care are highlighted for the implementation of electronic health records, a system NHS Digital regards as ‘flagship’, it also noted that only 77% of acute hospitals have the same system. And as one of the biggest prizes digital transformation can deliver, there is a need to consign siloed, unconnected data to the past, at scale.
To go some way towards achieving this, a key recommendation is to develop a framework of standards for data sharing and interoperability at an ICS level, in line with the Hewitt Review.
Engagement and workforce
The paper recognises how digital transformation can understandably be perceived as an unwelcome distraction and time drain on staff that are already stretched.
Individuals need both the ‘time and headspace’ to engage in digital transformation. While this is easier said than done, the paper rightly reflects widespread capacity challenges and pressures across the system at present.
The committee believes that digital initiatives should be co-designed in collaboration with staff, both clinical and non-clinical to secure buy-in and engagement with programmes.
“It is important that digital is understood as a thread that runs throughout healthcare, not as a specialist skill set that is only relevant to some staff and occupations.” - Digital transformation in the NHS
A key area of focus is building digital skills across health and social care, both through growing the specialist digital workforce and skills in the wider workforce. This will be vital to the long-term success of digital transformation initiatives.
The NHS app
The NHS app is recognised by the expert panel for its potential to become ‘a seamless entry point’ to the NHS.
Within this, possibilities noted include the development of more patient-centric applications for management of an individual’s health and care, including interventions to support behaviour change and self-care. Here, AI and analytics could play a role and help guide interventions an individual receives. While enabling the individual to access their medical records and track referrals is also seen as essential.
Another key consideration is the need to fully translate the value and benefits of the NHS App to patients. This, the paper notes, ‘is still not clear to many existing users’ as are the practical applications it could have in offering greater convenience and improvements in patients’ daily lives.
Here at Livi, we fully support the vision for the NHS App to become the digital front door to healthcare. That’s why our patient engagement platform offers integration and provides partners with a means to seamlessly communicate with patients through the NHS App.
A number of examples of innovation within the NHS are detailed in the paper. This includes utilisation of monitoring tools, wearables and the NHS’s genomic medicine service.
While the impact of the pandemic is identified as accelerating the pace of digital transformation, it is noted that there is a tendency for the system to prioritise ‘digitising’ over ‘transformation.’ This is said to have led to approaches which simply transfer physical processes to a digital setting, rather than fully embracing what makes digital different and its full potential. The latter philosophy can be the foundation for achieving better outcomes with gains in efficiency and improvement.
Management and treatment of disease
The positive potential for digital to not only improve the care patients receive but also provide more comprehensive coverage and ways to manage and treat disease is also highlighted.
Particular examples cited include management of cystic fibrosis patients, antenatal care and mental health. While the CQC notes how remote access services supported patient groups during the pandemic including cancer patients and those with learning difficulties. Benefits include removing need for travel and its ability to provide a layer of protection for immunosuppression.
The Livi take
We fully believe in the paper’s core tenet that “digital transformation is vital for the long-term sustainability of the health service.”
From working with our system partners, there are many examples of excellent work and results already being achieved in this regard, with significant gains being made in capacity, efficiency and quality of care.
This can be extended further through close collaboration between the NHS and digital healthcare providers at scale, following best practice examples.
How we can help
Livi is the digital healthcare partner of choice for NHS services, rated Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission. We work to improve outcomes at every care touchpoint and serve integrated care systems, urgent care services, primary care networks, GP federations and GP practices.
Livi combines digital technology with clinical expertise to make more possible. From serving rising patient demand to managing complex patient populations and delivering the right care at the right time. Our market-leading digital platforms power better healthcare experiences, connecting people to the care they need, when they need it. While our tools support clinicians and care teams to focus on what matters most – patient care.
Whether it's digital consultation platforms, clinical capacity, patient engagement tools or healthcare websites, Livi offers an extensive range of solutions and services that enable better healthcare for everyone.
To find out how we can help you, view our solutions.
To read the full House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee report, visit here.