Calls for digital revolution to facilitate healthcare reforms

Public Policy Projects report sets out 12 recommendations for digital advancements that will be needed to underpin proposed government health and care reforms

  • Public Policy Projects (PPP) launches new report setting out 12 key policy recommendations on how a digital revolution will enable NHS organisations and local authorities to work together effectively
  • Government reforms must clarify accountability and responsibility of arm’s-length bodies surrounding data
  • Reforms need to empower patients to become ‘informed co-creators of their own health’
  • A radically-new type of leadership is needed to promote inclusivity and diversity and put digital at the heart of development

The Government must embrace digital technologies if it is to realise the benefits set out in a recent health and social care White Paper. Image, Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

The Government must place digital innovation at the heart of new reforms and galvanise the progress made during the COVID-19 pandemic if health and social care services are to work effectively in the longer term, according to a new report.

The document, released this week by global public policy institute, Public Policy Projects (PPP), and entitled State of the Nation: Digitisation and Medical Technologies, includes 12 policy recommendations from the former associate chief clinical information officer at NHS England, Dr Harpreet Sood; and deputy chairwoman of the PPP Healthcare and Life Sciences Policy Board, Baroness Nicola Blackwood.

The recommendations call for digital-based solutions to be placed at the heart of the Government’s plans for healthcare reforms which it outlined in a recently-published White Paper.

Proposals in the paper set out plans to modernise the health and care system to make it fit for the future and to tackle the needs of communities to deliver higher-quality care in a system that is less bureaucratic, more accountable, and more collaborative.

The report from PPP, which was presented to the current Minister for Innovation at the Department of Health and Social Care, Lord James Bethell; and chief executive of NHS Digital, Sarah Wilkinson, urges the Government and NHS arm’s-length bodies to use digital solutions to facilitate greater collaboration between health and care providers in order to benefit local populations, and it demands changes to system leadership to pave the way for greater accountability of services .

The rapid expansion of new forms of system collaboration and remote care experienced during the pandemic has heightened the need to rethink both the ambitions and plans for the digital and medical technologies agenda

The policy recommendations focus on driving substantive cultural and practice change towards digital-first healthcare provision, and include tech-based solutions to a number of significant issues currently faced by the NHS, including:

  • Placing digital innovation at the heart of healthcare reform
  • Implementing a prevention-first approach
  • Empowering patients to become informed co-creators of their own health
  • Legislating better data access, interoperability and protection
  • Reviewing effective digital solutions used during the pandemic

The report provides analysis concerning the current state of digital policy, performance of policy development against benchmarks, and delivery in the UK healthcare system.

Specific exploration includes the practical short-term benefits of embedding digital enhancements to frontline service delivery where improvements have been observed during the pandemic.

Alongside these, the report provides a long-term vision for the transformational potential of digital and data-enabled healthcare, outlining the key enablers, capabilities, and partnerships that are required to make this a reality.

Dr Sood, who is also a practicing GP in London, said: “The NHS Long Term Plan (LTP), and the Health and Social Care Secretary have both identified the crucial role that digital transformation will play in our ability to meet the health and care demands of the 21st Century.

“However, the recently published White Paper highlights that there are still barriers to integrating technology effectively.

The Government will only be successful in its aims to enhance the current structure of the NHS if it ensures that digital innovation is at the centre of all health and social care reforms moving forward

“The insight gained from the roundtable discussions and interviews revealed that there is a tremendous desire to embrace the new possibilities of enhancing health and care using technology and data.

“We need to remove the institutional and systemic barriers in working efficiently for patients and healthcare professionals and improve the widening health inequalities.

“The report calls for healthcare professionals, industry leaders, policymakers, and the general public to think and act differently, looking to a future in which population health is empowered by innovative technology and data directs how healthcare is delivered in the 21st Century.

“As our population continues to age, the digitisation of the NHS will enable care to be more joined up and the structures in place to link health and social care to be drastically improved.”

Published in partnership with Novartis, Cerner, Cloudgateway, Siemens Healthineers, Nourish Care, and VitalityHealth; the report incorporated insights from three extensive roundtable discussions and interviews with over 70 leaders and expert representatives from policy, system leadership, frontline care, social care, mental health, the third sector, and leading players in research, life sciences, digital health, and the tech sector.

Baroness Blackwood said: “The rapid expansion of new forms of system collaboration and remote care experienced during the pandemic has heightened the need to rethink both the ambitions and plans for the digital and medical technologies agenda.

The insight gained from the roundtable discussions and interviews revealed that there is a tremendous desire to embrace the new possibilities of enhancing health and care using technology and data

“But the Government will only be successful in its aims to enhance the current structure of the NHS, provide clear lines of accountability, and integrate health and care services if it ensures that digital innovation is at the centre of all health and social care reforms moving forward.

“The Department for Health and Social Care must build on the momentum generated over the course of the pandemic to drive substantive culture and practice change towards digital-first healthcare provision which is more proactive, predictive, and effective.”

The report heralds the beginning of an ongoing cross-sector conversation on the future of digitally-empowered healthcare that will comprise an annual report and a series of events, debates, and roundtables to explore the themes and policy recommendations that have arisen in more depth.

Click here for details of the planned government reforms.

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