Turning policy into practice: Medical technology and the Long-Term Plan
Public Policy Projects (PPP) recently put together a high-level, strategic roundtable to develop practical, actionable steps for medical and digital technology in the community, primary and mental health care sectors. The full report was circulated to all attendees and the following key learnings were gathered:
The use of technology in GP surgeries
The Long-Term Plan (LTP) states that every patient in England will have access to a telephone or online GP consultation, in the next five years. The LTP may be able to provide phone or video consultations to all patients in England, at the provider side, but if patients do not have access to the technology required for video consultation, then this access will not be actualised. While phone call and video consultations are welcome, patients should always have the option to see their doctor in person. Further to this, education of clinicians, healthcare professionals and patients of how this technology will work and how it will affect them should run in parallel to the implementation of these new forms of GP consultation.
Home-based and wearable medical devices
The LTP aims for more people to be cared for at home to prevent admissions into hospitals, using home-based and wearable monitoring devices. These devices can include digital scales, heart monitors and home testing kits that allow patients to monitor their recovery/condition at home and encourage direct management of personal health outcomes. As is always the case with new technologies, there cannot be a presumption that the public, patients and clinicians will immediately understand the intricacies of these technologies. Clinicians and the public/patients need to be educated on these devices and what the implementations mean for them.
The NHS App and non-NHS apps
The national roll-out of the NHS App has begun and the NHS has also published the NHS Apps Library which provides citizens and healthcare professionals with access to over 70 apps that have been assessed and approved by the NHS. The apps work to bring the NHS to the patient, rather than the patient to the NHS. With that in mind, it is important that these apps, both the NHS App and NHS approved apps, are designed and developed with the user in mind. Empowerment of the citizen lies at the heart of these developments and thus, the user experience for the citizen must be acutely focused on. Further to this, NHS England and NHS Digital have the opportunity to incorporate truly innovative apps into the patient pathway, and so they must work to engage with these companies as well as develop guidance for developers on what they need to do to have their innovations adopted by the NHS.
Patient data will undoubtedly revolutionise healthcare in this country if used effectively. With the creation of NHSX, we should also be more equipped than ever to utilise patient data to improve health outcomes across the entirety of England. This data use can only be successful if patients and citizens are empowered throughout this process.
Furthermore, regulation tends to lag behind innovation and has the challenge of attempting to keep up with rapidly developing innovative technology. Regulation needs to be in place to protect patients, while not putting up a barrier to innovative ways of using data that may develop in the future.
Key policy recommendations from the roundtable:
- Data should be utilised to effectively incorporate text, phone call or video call consultations in GP surgeries, while still offering patients a face-to-face option
- Clinicians and patients need to be educated and trained in the use of home-based and wearable devices
- The NHS app and other health apps need to be developed with the user in mind
- The NHS must understand that the data they use is citizen data and the population must be empowered if the data is to be used effectively
- The health workforce must be educated and trained before new digital technologies and platforms are implemented.
A digital-ready workforce
None of the above recommendations can be effectively implemented if the workforce is not ready for digital innovation. Digital innovation needs to be developed with the workforce in mind. If the workforce is not effectively educated and trained in new technology, then implementation is unlikely to be successful.
The recommendations laid out in the report were strategically thought out to aide NHS England in delivering the policy laid out in the LTP and developing practical actional steps that will help develop a ‘digital first’ healthcare system.
The full report can be found here.
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