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Ten-point plan to build on digital progress sparked by COVID pandemic

4th February 2021 about a 6 minute read
“Longstanding challenges have held back health care for years... Policymakers, technologists, clinicians and innovators should consider these recommendations and look to understand how to support their implementation.” Victoria Betton, Vice-Chair of the techUK Health and Social Care Council

A new report sets out a strategy to help the health and care sector make better use of digital technology to improve outcomes for patients and transform how care is delivered nationally.

As digital technology starts to play a more central role to the delivery of health and care, particularly since the outbreak of the pandemic,  the trade association techUK has come up with a10-point plan. 

It outlines a set of priorities for transformation from industry, focusing on:

  • Empowering the public
  • Embedding standards and interoperability
  • Digitising social care
  • Supporting the health and social care workforce
  • Reforming business environment and procurement.

The techUK Ten Point Plan for Healthtech was drawn up by techUK members and healthtech companies, with the techUK Health and Social Care team and Council in collaboration with NHSX, NHS Digital, the Professional Record Standards Body, INTEROPen, Health Education England, the NHS Digital Academy, the Shuri Network and others.

The report reinforces the importance of working collaboratively with industry and Julian David, techUK CEO, said it offered “an essential roadmap” for improving delivery of care across the board:

 “The past year has highlighted the essential role that digital health technology can play in supporting the NHS and care sector to deliver better outcomes for patients.

Complex challenges

“This paper distills  several complex challenges and issues that the health and social care sector faces into ten logical and, importantly, achievable recommendations.” 

Andreas Haimböck-Tichy, Chair of the techUK Health and Social Care Council and Director, Healthcare & Life Sciences, IBM UK and Ireland, added:

“As we look ahead to the rest of 2021, these recommendations also provide the bedrock for a raft of possible reforms to ensure the UK provides excellent health and social care services to its citizens and is an attractive place for healthtech businesses.”

Victoria Betton, Vice-Chair of the techUK Health and Social Care Council and Chief Innovation Officer, Mindwave Ventures, said the report highlights the longstanding challenges that have held back health care for years. 

“It highlights the importance of a highly-trained and digitally-empowered workforce, a well-informed public and improved procurement practices across the system. 

“Policymakers, technologists, clinicians and innovators should consider these recommendations and look, both at a local and national level, to understand how to support their implementation.”

Summary of the recommendations

1. Putting the power into the hands of the public

The health service should prioritise improving citizens’ access to their own data, enabling them to make data-driven, informed decisions about their own care.

2. Developing world-class digital health and care standards

NHSX should continue to work with industry to ensure the Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC) is fit for purpose; raise awareness and support commissioners to understand and utilise the DTAC; work with third-party assessors to maintain a pipeline of innovation; and engage with the relevant stakeholders to realise a functional reimbursement model for citizen-facing digital health technology.

3. Communicating the value of digital health

The NHS should utilise the channels that the public uses to access information about health and care to raise visibility of citizen-facing digital health technology. 

Stakeholders should consult on creating a mechanism that allows individuals to easily access information about the innovations available through the service within a specific locality, and commissioners to check what is being done across the country.

4. Applying an international, open standards first approach

techUK encourages NHS Digital and NHSX to take an international, ‘open standards first’ approach as it develops national assets and infrastructure. Further education of NHS staff about what interoperability means in practice will help to reinforce the importance of this approach.

5. Centrally mandating, assessing and enforcing the use of interoperability standards

The Department of Health and Social Care should centrally mandate, assess and enforce the use of interoperability standards through NHSX and NHS Digital. 

Standards should be locally implemented and co-developed with both industry and the service itself. These should then be collated into a single, searchable interoperability standards registry. 

This standards registry should be transparent and accessible by end users so they understand what they should adhere to.

6. Supporting integration of social care through digital transformation

The Department for Health and Social Care, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, NHSX and local authorities should work with techUK and other industry associations to establish a commission to audit the structure and digital maturity of the social care landscape. This audit will help industry better support the digital transformation and integration of the health and care system. 

Having completed the audit, they should define a “target architecture” for care that will help to establish a roadmap for providers to identify what technology they need to implement.

7. Increasing digital maturity of staff

Stakeholders should leverage industry partnerships in the digital upskilling of staff, with a focus on continuing to improve boards’ understanding and confidence of digital; designing clear career pathways for informatics staff; and developing a diverse and inclusive informatics workforce.

8. Providing targeted and dedicated investment for digital technology

Following on from the findings of the recent Public Accounts Committee and National Audit Office reports, techUK believes that the vision for a digitally mature 

In system should be delivered through targeted and dedicated investment in technology for health and social care. This funding should be ringfenced and delivered via multi-year budgets that will allow flexibility between Capital (CapEx) and Revenue (OpEx) where appropriate.

9. Enshrining the role of the Integrated Care System into law

In line with the Long Term Plan’s recommendation to establish Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) nationally by April 2021, techUK calls on the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to implement plans to establish the role of the ICS in law. This will help to simplify and codify the provider landscape, making it easier for suppliers to engage with the health and care system.

10. Streamlining procurement of digital technology

As part of a comprehensive plan to reform procurement, the health and care sector should pivot towards outcomes as the primary success factor for digital transformation; signpost suppliers to existing frameworks; provide an accurate estimate for their total value; provide specialist training for procurement staff who are buying technology; and prioritise the streamlining of existing and future frameworks by committing to reducing their proliferation.

A copy of the report is available here