National Health Servers: delivering digital health for all

This research considers how technology could be adopted quicker and more widely by the NHS to improve the care that patients receive and to drive better health outcomes.

The report’s structure tracks the patient journey, from prevention and diagnosis in the community, into primary and secondary care, through into management of long-term conditions. As well as improving the care experience in primary and secondary care, the report argues that there are huge opportunities to keep patients out of the NHS: prevention of disease can reduce the likelihood of people having to enter hospital care in the first place; better digital management of long-term conditions can help avoid unnecessary readmissions into hospital.

In describing this patient journey, the report charts some of the current shortcomings of in adopting technologies that can improve healthcare and the patient experience. This report reveals that where you live, which commissioner serves you, which GP practice you live near and which hospital you use will dictate whether you receive a digitally-enabled or an outdated service. Levelling out this unwarranted variation without suffocating innovation should be a priority.

The report sets out proposals for future development of technology in the NHS, which impact across the patient journey.

The report recommends:

  1. Enshrining digital rights in the NHS Constitution to make a reality of promises in the NHS Long Term Plan and to level out unwarranted variation in provision.
  2. Establishing clear priorities to promote access to digital healthcare among:
    – Those who are already digitally-enabled – Recent Ofcom data shows that four in five UK consumers now own smartphones.
    – Meanwhile, ONS data from 2018 also reveals that in the last decade the proportion of individuals using the internet for health-related activities increased from 24% to 54%.Those managing long-term conditions where digital tech could have a huge impact.
  3. Promoting digital access among individuals with long-term conditions, including through social prescribing of digital skills where necessary.
  4. Addressing the risk that technology could exacerbate existing health inequalities by prescribing devices and wearables where there is a clear health need to individuals who cannot afford these products.
  5. Enacting proposed reforms to instil interoperability across digital systems as proposed in the recent NHS Long Term Plan.
  6. Opening a public debate on Electronic Patient Records and selling the benefits of patient data to the health of the UK population, as a first step towards winning consent for sharing and using data. This should include publishing an annual analysis of the estimated value of patient data to the public and NHS users, in terms of treatments developed and made available, health improvements and efficiencies recorded.

Download The Report: PDF

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