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Survey shows majority of patients have embraced technology during pandemic

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The survey, led by the Medical Technology Group (MTG), shows that most respondents have had a positive experience of using communications technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the 400 people surveyed, over two-thirds of patients described their experience of telephone or online video consultations as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, and six out of ten said that communications technology compared favourably with face-to-face contact with their clinician, citing benefits that include eliminating the risk of infection, avoiding the need to travel and reduction in overall costs.

Among those respondents who had experienced a different form of medical technology, such as a joint or heart valve replacement, cardiac stent, or surgical cancer treatment, eight out of ten said that it has had a ‘great deal’ or ‘a lot’ of impact on their life.

Among those patients who use wearable or implantable medical technology, such as a blood pressure monitor, pacemaker, or insulin pump, nearly two-thirds described it as ‘extremely important’ during the pandemic.

Over half cited the ability to manage their own condition as a benefit of this medical technology, with four in ten stating that they do not need to visit hospital as often.

Although the majority of respondents said they value the growing role of technology in healthcare, 59 per cent would still feel comfortable going to hospital for treatment despite the pandemic.

Barbara Harpham, chair of the MTG, said, “This research clearly shows that patients value the role that medical technology has played during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While virtual consultations are a good substitute for face-to-face appointments for discussing medication, referrals, and minor ailments, when it comes to diagnosis or physical examinations, there is no substitute for face-to-face appointments. More work needs to be done to determine precisely how this technology is used to help in the future.

“Patients’ experience of wider medical technology is extremely positive. It shows the role that med tech can play in getting the NHS back up and running, harnessing its benefits to build a better health service. Used properly, medical technology can get patients back to normal life quicker, make the NHS more efficient, and benefit society as a whole.”

The Medical Technology Group was founded in 2000 with the ambition to fulfil a need for greater access to medical technology in the NHS.

The organisation brings together entities such as patient groups, health tech companies and research charities, with a common aim of improving patient outcomes and helping the NHS achieve savings through the introduction of technology.

The MTG’s ‘Keeping Britain Working’ report, carried out in 2017, showed that just eight technologies had the potential to save the NHS £476.5 million; a figure that equates to 20,000 nurses and half a million GP visits.

Harpham says: “Technology has to be paid for and it comes with high initial upfront costs, but the savings over the years are far more than if the technology wasn’t used. There is a barrier to the introduction of technology in the way that the NHS is funded and processes through which tech is commissioned. There is rationing within the NHS.

“NICE and CCGs cannot be forced to do anything by anybody. There is nobody that can make a commissioning group do something. And so that’s why the patient voice is so important.”

MTG says cost and culture are two of the main barriers to the adoption of new technology. In recent years, local commissioners have been required to reduce costs, which often results in promising technologies being overlooked.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it necessary for medical institutions to rapidly adapt to ensure patients’ needs are met. MTG says this has ‘forced’ the NHS and clinicians to introduce new technology faster and on a larger scale than it would in normal circumstances.

Harpham says: “There is no single remedy to the current culture of commissioning, which is why COVID has given us such an opportunity. I think a positive thing that will come from this, is that clinicians, the NHS and commissioners will realise that technology is there waiting to be used.

“They’re more forward-looking now and thinking about how technology can solve particular problems. So, they are seeking technologies out, rather than technologies coming to them.”

MTG says the benefits of medical technology is not limited to the healthcare sectors but has knock-on effects for other areas of the public sector, too.

“One thing that the MTG has been pushing for a long time is that it’s not just about the condition that is treated, it’s about the wider societal benefits,” Harpham says.

“Getting back to work, looking after your family again, not relying on carers, looking after yourself; that has a knock-on effect for Work and Pensions and other departments. It’s not just the health department budget it’s other budgets as well.”

“There is so much evidence out there now showing that there is a need for technology and that people are willing to use it and accept it. What would be the saddest thing is that if out of all of this, the momentum was lost.”

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