How can technology help deliver the NHS Long Term Plan? A view from the board
23 January 2020
In the last of our series of blogs expanding upon the results from our survey of NHS NEDs across England, we focus on the role that technology has in shaping the future of the NHS.
Technology features heavily throughout the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) and with the creation of NHSx, it is becoming a more targeted and structured area of focus for the NHS. But how does this translate to the operational needs of the organisations that will be responsible for implementing the LTP?
What did we find out?
Overall, respondents are in agreement with the need for technology to become a more integral part of operations, for both systems and patients.
However, close to 40% of respondents felt that technology was not being used effectively within their own organisations, compared to the 36% who did.
When asked about the implementation of technology for the use of transformational change across integrated care systems (ICSs), 39% did not believe there was a clear plan for this compared to 31% who did.
There are four themes that come out clearly from the survey:
Basic needs first
IT systems must be fit for purpose. There is a need to invest in basic IT first, and provide the necessary foundation to build more advanced and future facing technology. If a PC on a ward takes 10 minutes to turn on, clinicians are less likely to use the new software that an organisation has invested in.
Electronic patient records and shared information systems were the top two themes noted by respondents. There is a recognised need for joined up systems across health and social care and seamless access to records across the footprint of ICSs. Systems should be standardised across ICSs to allow a seamless transfer of information. Respondents called for common data sets, shared diagnostic networking and joint care records across all providers, including local authorities.
(See our 'Making healthcare digital. For good' web page for our approach to optimising electronic health records).
A number of respondents focussed on the desire to provide patients with greater access to their own healthcare records to help them better understand their choices. This is particularly relevant to those with chronic disorders.
Digital apps and services are also featured heavily in responses including using technology for video consultations and for the management of out-patient appointments. Our Patients’ voice survey showed that there was still some scepticism amongst patients to engage with technology, but 40% would be willing to engage with technology in their healthcare experience.
Technology can also help the workforce on the frontline increase their available time for patient needs. In our 2019 annual report, we feature a story specifically around this. PwC partnered with Perfect Ward, which has developed an app designed to help reduce the time spent on admin-heavy, time consuming tasks related to healthcare inspections. Whilst recognising the important role that these inspections play, technology enables more time for staff to care for their patients.
Whilst there is the recognition from respondents that there is a need to get the basics right first, some respondents are also thinking about what more advanced elements of technology can do for them. AI and robotic surgery were specifically mentioned, along with automation of lower skill activities, such as standard test results reading.
It is clear that technology will play an ever increasingly important part in healthcare. However, what is most critical is that this technology enables contact with the right healthcare professional at the right time. This approach to the use of technology is most likely to deliver the aims of the LTP.
You can find the survey results and our other blogs on governance and regulation here.