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Looking to the future: how the NHS plans to level up its technology

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Simon Bourne - mhealth

Launched by Aneurin Bevan on July 5 1948, the NHS was born out of an ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. In 2021, it faces an unprecedented challenge. In an exclusive to Health Tech World, Simon Bourne of My Mhealth looks at the future for health leaders.

At the beginning of 2019, the NHS announced its long-term plan (formerly known as the NHS 10-year plan) and it was welcomed with open arms across the country. Since its inception in the 1940s the organisation has been a pillar of British culture. It is a true British institution and one that we take great pride in. The system is praised around the world for its affordability, safety and efficiency and its reputation precedes itself.

But the truth of the matter is that it has historically fallen short and has been left behind when it comes to digitalisation and modernisation.

Its long-term plan however sets out key goals to ensure that digitally enabled care will become mainstream across the NHS with five specific areas within which to improve. They include;

  • Empowering people
  • Supporting health and care professionals
  • Supporting clinical care
  • Improving population health
  • Improving clinical efficiency and safety

In order to achieve these goals, the NHS must ensure it is embracing a digital-first way of connecting. In committing to enhancing its services through technology, the NHS can better support its healthcare professionals to provide optimum care while prioritising their workload in an efficient way. The long-term plan discusses its aim to “transform” the patient experience. By utilising technology that is user-friendly and accessible, patients can benefit from remote healthcare without the concerns of long commutes to GP appointments or hospitals.

The goals outlined by the NHS will impact digital care platforms on healthcare professionals and patients significantly

The Digital Commitment

The NHS is not often regarded as a pioneer in the health-tech industry. Prior to the launch of NHSX in April 2019, the move towards digital were gradual and did not necessarily achieve the desired impact. However, with a look to the future, the NHS is now making a public commitment to better integrate technology into its practices to benefit healthcare professionals. In doing so, they are promising better support for patients with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Diabetes, Asthma, Cancer and other conditions.

By inputting digital infrastructure to support patients and HCPs, the NHS can achieve its intention to “Empower People” to manage their healthcare from home. Technology can be put in place to support those with long-term conditions, who have long been used to attending face-to-face appointments. This technology will enable them to check-in with their HCP from home, as well as allowing them to take advantage of digital developments. This allows patients to utilise health-tracking apps in order to update statistics on long-term conditions that require daily monitoring and accessing their care plans electronically. By committing to making care plans and other health monitoring services available through technology, the NHS can make real progress in its aim to empower both patients and HCPS.

Moving to a Virtual Approach

Over the last year, the world has had to move to a virtual way of working, collaborating and connecting with one another. The NHS has been no exception. In its efforts to reduce the burden on the system, and increase ease and comfortability for patients it has committed to virtual consultations through digital transformation.

While continuing its commitment to supporting clinical care, the NHS’s plans to revolutionise how patients interact with HCPs is an important step in their digital journey.

As virtual appointments give patients the continued contact they are looking for, in turn, these alleviate pressures on HCPs, allowing them to spend 10-15 minutes on a video call with a patient, and immediately return to their work soon after. It also allows for HCPs to consult more patients in a more efficient manner. As neither party needs to be present in-person, HCPs can prioritise in-person appointments that cannot be held via video, and can focus on the ongoing work within their practice.

Another benefit of virtual interactions with patients is the workload balance it offers HCPs. In implementing cloud-based operating systems that can be accessed from anywhere, HCPs have the opportunity to focus less on administrative duties, such as inventory management, and instead can prioritise patient interaction and care provision.

Long-term Commitments

It is clear that the goals set out will ensure technology is at the heart of the NHS. This implementation will result in better, more streamlined care for HCPs and patients. In its commitment to embracing technology, and committing to patient-first digital care, the NHS can empower its workforce to better manage their workloads by offering efficiency-optimising solutions to administrative burdens.

As we move beyond the pandemic, which has understandably become the NHS priority for the last year, and continue on a path of digital transformation, it is important that HCPs and patients are equipped with the tools necessary to make this transition as seamless as possible. As laid out in their long-term plan, it is heartening to see these promises being made and I am extremely honoured to be along for this exciting and historic journey

  • Attributed to Dr Simon Bourne, founder and CEO of my mhealth and former COPD lead at Southampton University.

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