Digital and data must be embedded into plans for the future of healthcare

Written by Leontina Postelnicu on 25 February 2022 in Opinion
Opinion

The challenges and achievements of the pandemic have shown that tech innovation is the only way forward for the health and social care system, according to Leontina Postelnicu of techUK

Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

There can be no denying that, as a result of urgent need, the past two years have seen significant change in the digital health and care space. 

At techUK, together with our membership of over 850 technology companies spread across the UK, we have seen an increasing number of innovators work with the health and social care system to help address the challenges posed by both Covid-19 and the future as a whole. For instance, figures shared by NHS England show that over 200,000 patients are now being supported through remote monitoring and thousands of other patients are cared for in virtual wards thanks to the use of technology.

While remote monitoring has been a necessity while Covid-19 restrictions were in place, digital technology is here to stay in the health and social care sphere – and one might say it’s the only way forward. 

As such, in February last year, after months of increased collaboration between industry and the service, techUK published the Ten Point Plan for Healthtech, a report setting out a suite of recommendations to further develop the UK’s digital health and care ecosystem. These ranged from supporting citizens and the workforce, to addressing growing pressures faced by social care, and the recommendations made in the paper were aimed at a broad audience wanting to advance the use of digital technology across health and care, ultimately helping to improve staff experience and deliver better outcomes.

Over the past 12 months, we have seen significant progress in making this a reality. The Health and Care Bill, together with the People at the Heart of Care and the recently released Joining Up Care for People, Places and Populations white papers, have outlined considerable changes to the structure of our health and care system to ensure technology can support the way the health and care sector works. 

More work to do
However, we must not stop there. If we are to truly take advantage of the opportunities that digital technology brings to these sectors, digital, data and technology will have to be embedded throughout the delivery of any plans to redesign health and care going forward. The draft data and AI strategies for health and social care, published last year, stated a commitment to do exactly that, setting out bold aspirations for the future. 

With NHSX and NHS Digital now incorporated into the NHS England Transformation Directorate, the progress we have seen during the past few years will continue to advance. It is clear that digital, data, and technology will play an increasingly integral role in the delivery of health and care services, supporting both staff and patients safely and properly. 

There is indeed much that needs to be done still – fears over long waiting times for health appointments and lack of support have recently been cited as key disruptors in the sector as of late. More work to ensure patients are looked after timely is a key priority.

However, working with digital health and care innovators and leveraging the expertise, knowledge and innovation thriving in industry will play a key role in delivering an enhanced way of working for the sake of patients, staff, and society as a whole.

 

About the author

Leontina Postelnicu is head of health and social care at techUK. Click here to read the organisation's Ten Point Plan for Healthtech.

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