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Reform partnered with NHS England on 12 January 2016 to convene a conference exploring how technology can support the NHS to become a “social movement” – one of the Five Year Forward View’s key objectives. Four key themes emerged from the day:
i) NHS England’s commitment to digital transformation is real;
ii) creative use of technology is happening in places but utilisation remains a challenge;
iii) the NHS environment for innovation could be more supportive; and
iv) the value of healthcare data has been only partially tapped.
Tracey Grainger, Head of Digital Primary Care Development at NHS England, delivered the keynote address. Her message was clear: NHS England is committed to making more ambitious use of technology. Digital will no longer be “on the edge of services” but instead will be “integral” to service delivery. Technology will entail greater self-management and fewer patients physically visiting GPs, pharmacies and A&Es.
Panel 1: Delivering patient-centred care
The first panel highlighted the key opportunities and challenges facing NHS reform in this area.
Several speakers across the conference noted the NHS can inhibit the adoption of new technologies that other private or international healthcare systems would encourage. Michael Seres, founder of 11Health, related his experience of successfully launching a new product in the United States while being unable to navigate the NHS’s entry criteria. Lynda Thomas drew attention to the importance of facilitating peer-to-peer support online; and the need for greater join-up between primary and secondary care to better enable seamless patient journeys. Nevertheless, Dr Saif Abed noted that it is right that the NHS requires new technologies to be supported by robust evidence to ensure their long-term success. Gerry Aue, of McKinsey & Company, suggested the development of an anonymised health data platform, and the use of payment by results for health technology start-ups, could better support innovation.
Panel 2: Supporting health and wellbeing
The key theme of increasing data continued in this panel. The potential value of patients’ health data and associated data governance issues, such as security and patient consent, were central to the discussions. Dr Phil Koczan argued that there is a need to translate greater availability of data into useful insights and behavioural change within healthcare. Mark Duman argued that NHS providers need to catch up on digital services provided by the voluntary sector, and highlighted barriers facing even empowered patients regarding accessing and sharing their own data. Dr Christopher Schenk argued there should be greater communication to patients about digital services already available.
12 January 2016
09.15 - 13.00