A new report by the Health Foundation explores the challenges of implementing healthcare technologies during the coronavirus pandemic, and how the progress made can be retained and adapted in the future. The report, titled Securing a positive health care technology legacy from Covid-19, also examines the experiences of patients and staff using technology.
The Pharma Times rounds up the survey results in a recent article. It notes that 4,326 UK adults took part in the Health Foundation study, of which 39% had either ‘received NHS care for any health condition’ or that they had communicated with the NHS about their health since the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020.
97% of this group reported using technology to receive care. About three-fifths of NHS patients used technology in a new way, or increased their use of it, as the lockdown started. Of this group, an impressive 83% reported a positive experience.
Around 1,000 NHS staff took part in the survey. Of these, 78% who reported greater use of technology indicated that their experience was positive. When compared with traditional models of care, however, 42% of NHS patients and 33% said the quality of technology-enabled care was worse.
The authors of the report note that the negative responses should highlight the need to develop and improve approaches before ‘locking them in’. It also states that greater instances of dissatisfaction were reported in those aged 55 or older, those with a carer, and unemployed people. This raises questions of how digital inclusion can be improved for all sectors of the population.
Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, commented, “Innovations in digital care achieved during the pandemic have expedited opportunities to now embed a blended approach of both face-to-face and digital options where relevant in accessing care.”
She added, “This mix should be designed to best support patients to access care in ways that are right for them, and reflect the need for access to inclusive and appropriate services for everyone who needs them.”
The report makes a recommendation for the reassessment of long-term planning of the NHS and other national strategies. It stresses that policymakers will need to collaborate with front-line teams, in order to establish technology-based interventions which will align with quality and productivity objectives.
NHS staff included in the survey indicated that top priorities should be ensuring adequate IT and equipment, along with sufficient staffing levels. The report suggests that the forthcoming Spending Review should specifically address the NHS workforce, and the skills and infrastructure needed to capitalise of the successful use of technology during the crisis.
Examples of changes to be integrated into a long-term approach include more phone and video consultation in primary and secondary care; wider use of apps and devices to enable remote working, increased use of the Electronic Prescribing Service, and greater use of the NHS website and NHS 111 online.
Whatever happens in the future, the extraordinary effort of the NHS to adapt to new technologies during the pandemic has gone a long way to refute past criticisms that it is too slow to rollout and adopt technology.
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