Ready, steady, go…Harnessing technology
"We’ve seen this week that the belief in tech for good in health and care and the ambition for transforming the NHS (and social care) is still alive."
Two profoundly important guidance documents for accelerating the uptake of digital technologies in health and care were published by NHSX this week with the simplest of titles: What Good Looks Like (WGLL) and Who Pays for What (WPW).
Harnessing technology has never been more important for the long-term sustainability of the UK’s health (and social care) system. Both documents reflect the drive at the highest level of government for tech to enable the transformation of services and deliver a fit for purpose health and care system for the future.
In a recent FCC article, “A step in the right direction,” reporting on the response of NHS Providers to What Good Looks Like, I was quoted:
“The opportunity to continue the digital transformation of health and care is one that cannot be stalled.
“For the NHS, in the context of the work of integrated care systems (ICS), sufficient funding for digital and new technology should be seen as an imperative.
“Ultimately, if patient unmet needs are to be met, service provision must be complemented by rapid adoption of digital solutions from an innovative marketplace that is eager to assist.”
The NHS Providers and NHS Confederation report about overall funding pressures for the NHS paints a stark picture. Also, as adverts have now appeared for all ICS CEO roles, I am sure that current and prospective future substantive ICS leaders will have funding at the front of their minds. They will not just be thinking about how to cover pandemic related costs and reduce the backlog in operations and treatments. They will also be thinking about digital and tech funding, especially in the context of the WGLL framework.
Undoubtedly, the seven success measures listed in the WGLL framework provide a roadmap for the many ways the NHS and care system can harness and embrace technology for the benefit of patients.
But is the language used understandable to people who are in receipt of care?
How do we translate the policy messages and ambitions in these documents into understandable language for the public to engage in and embrace the part they have to play in harnessing technology going forward?
Having experienced a bereavement recently, particular parts of the framework e.g. the “challenges within the system/worsened by interoperability” and reference to “structures complicating a patient’s journey through the system…” struck a personal chord.
Losing my Dad prematurely and suddenly was tough and shocking in itself. But an additional stress for me and my family was that it felt like key parts of the system weren’t talking to each other just when he and we needed it most – in his last few days. For me, this was about both human interaction and also issues around data, technology and interoperability in the current system. For someone who has worked in health and care for over 20 years, I found this both frustrating and upsetting.
His last journey as a person and patient was not seamless and was, in fact, made more complicated for him and us as relatives.
So, clearly and importantly, my own very recent experience highlights why there is need for improvement and a need to harness technology to improve a patient’s journey through the system.
At FCC we are focussed on a fit for purpose future health and care system. How we can achieve that by embracing technology and data in the best possible way underpins that. Investment is needed to drive forward change at pace. The WGLL framework is helpful because it provides clarity for the new ICSs to see what is expected of them in this area.
On the back of the pandemic, which has demonstrated clearly the value and benefits of technology, it seems there’s never been a better time, or better context for those who work across health and social care to come together, rally round this policy imperative, and make it happen.
One question to ask is, how do we overcome scepticism about this? Not just from individuals but organisations of all sorts – and some policymakers. I think the answer is we have evidence of the clear benefits to patients in terms of improved outcomes and patient experience through the use of technology. This includes mental health – where innovative solutions are flourishing – as panellists’ stories demonstrated at FCC’s recent event, Mental Health Care: Tech and Transformation.
We need to keep the narrative alive around this evidence and patient stories to help address scepticism and work across the public sector, voluntary sector, private sector, and start-ups to maximise the benefits of using this technology across health and care.
We need to help both professional caregivers and unpaid carers understand and see the benefits of embracing technology more and more in the way they deliver health and care, and see that it will help them because it can also release precious time for a health and care workforce that remains under huge strain.
Equally, we also need to help patients, individuals, citizens, and especially people who are sceptical about the benefits of tech and self-care, and those who think the only way they can be treated or manage their care effectively, is by a professional literally treating them.
We’ve seen this week that the belief in tech for good in health and care and the ambition for transforming the NHS (and social care) is still alive. We now need certainty and sufficient government funding to get it kicking!