NHSx, the digital unit of UK’s National Health Service (NHS) launched a new Tech Plan last Thursday (27 February) as it wishes to seek wider opinions on how technology should be adopted to support the implementation of its Long Term Plan. Matt Hancock, UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced it at The Nuffield Trust Summit 2020. This new Tech Plan comes in five phases of consultations and they will be unveiled successively from now till summer. Hancock urged everyone from healthcare workers to patients to give feedbacks and set NHSx on the right direction.

NHSx Tech Plan’s Five Phases of Consultations

Phase 1, which began on the same day as this Tech Plan was published, set out NHSx’ vision for the future; that is to turn the 70-year-old publish health system into a “truly data-driven system” that will optimize care via research, data and analytics. Phase 2 is marked by objectives and missions. NHSx will highlight what it had achieved since its inception last July. It will also craft a comprehensive framework on what it will be doing in the upcoming year or two and outline tasks that it will undertake in the next three to five years.

Phase 3 is known as the “enablers” which explores areas within the healthcare system that can be enabled by technology. Specifically, NHSx promised to work with its fellow colleagues across the board and highlight good digital transformation practices between now till year 2024. At the same time, NHSx will decide who should be paying for what types of technology being brought into the system; how to uphold technology standards and build and/or related architecture.

Phase 4 concerns with deliverables; mainly developing regulatory standards, guidance and policies from now till March 2024. It will also put a thought on how to balance present funding and establish new funding channels for products and services that are either delivered centrally in the system or “truly makes sense”. NHSx will measure its digital success in Phase 5 as NHS digital maturity and its impact on the workforce and patients will be accessed.

Digital challenges face by the NHS and possible solutions

In a way, the new Tech Plan shared many similarities with the technology goals envisaged in the NHS Long Term Plan released last January. Both recognized while there has been technological progress in the UK healthcare system, there remains a gap between what technology has to offer and what has been delivered in reality. For example, healthcare data is not efficiently captured and utilized in the system; most digital infrastructure are still working in silos that do not promote data sharing.

Besides, healthcare workers have varying levels of confidence towards technology. Likewise, companies are offering a rather diverse range of digital solutions which makes it challenging for the NHS to assess their respective scalability and the kind of change they are trying to introduce. For patients, although more of them are using the NHS application, some of them are still struggling to get their hands on their own health data. Overall, digital transformation is not taking place in a coherent manner.

As such, NHS has been working on interoperability; ensuring other digital products are duly connected to its application to give users direct access to various services. The Tech Plan had indicated NHSx will soon be appointing a Director of Standards and Interoperability. In other areas, Digital staff identity was introduced to minimize paperwork and multiple, repeated login, as healthcare workers are now able to get hold of information as and when required. There’s also a plan for Digital Health Technology Standard which permits innovators to submit their thoughts on what standards a digital solution has to meet in order to deem it safe to be used within the NHS.

At the moment, NHSx welcomes the public to comment on its Tech Plan and visions. One can also share a case study, to demonstrate how technology can be leveraged to help transform healthcare services. Anyone who has any idea or thought can submit them to this platform.

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Author Bio

Hazel Tang A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.