Almost everyone in the UK uses technology in their personal lives, so we know that digital technology offers great opportunities for transforming health and social care services and associated outcomes, and for improving the experiences of patients or service users and their carers.
However, we have a great number of questions to answer if we are to adopt technology enabled care services on a widescale across all health and social care settings in synchronised, effective and interactive ways:
- Within the current funding frameworks and constraints how can we (try to) ensure that our Local Digital Roadmaps (LDRs) effectively underpin our associated Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs)?
- What are the most effective modes of technology enabled care? Or should the question be what types of technology applications and equipment are the most affordable (taking into account unintended consequences such as lower threshold for health alerts leading to increased healthcare usage but not necessarily better health)?
- How do we move from the current ad hoc set up of technology enabled care to a well integrated and interoperable system – in a collaborative culture across health and social care?
- What types of technology enabled care do patients, carers and citizens with long term conditions want or need for their health and wellbeing? What current access do they have to their preferred equipment? Have they the skills, competence, capability or even enthusiasm to use available technology or that envisaged so that they take more responsibility for shared management of their condition or their health in general?
- What information governance issues are there still to solve to ensure appropriate/safe sharing of patient data across settings, between patient and clinician/social worker?
- What training or upskilling should we be designing for the health and social care workforce to enable them to deliver digitally enabled healthcare; ie plan, set up, choose the mode, upskill user, extract or monitor data, contribute to evaluation of effectiveness, act on technology generated data and shared care records – safely and enthusiastically?
It is likely that LDRs will prioritise the cheaper modes of technology enabled care such as apps and video-consultation, as so much of the investment in LDRs initially will likely be targeted at infrastructure (connectivity, bandwidth and kit), rolling out national systems and expectations, creating safe information sharing via interoperable systems and focusing on data analytics.
There are many more questions that must be answered if we are to prove the worth of widespread adoption and dissemination of technology enabled care across an organisation, let alone as an effective interoperable system of a wide range of modes of technology across the many NHS and social care organisations in one STP.