Preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital future
Today the National Health Service in England published The Topol Review: Preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital future.
The Review proposes three principles to support the deployment of digital healthcare technologies:
1. Patients need to be included as partners and informed about health technologies, with a particular focus on vulnerable/marginalized groups to ensure equitable access.
2. The healthcare workforce needs expertise and guidance to evaluate new technologies, using processes grounded in real-world evidence.
3. The gift of time: wherever possible the adoption of new technologies should enable staff to gain more time to care, promoting deeper interaction with patients.
The Review foresees that many aspects of care will shift closer to the patient’s home, while more specialized care is centralized into national or regional centres. Digital healthcare technologies have the potential to speed up the move to a less paternalistic relationship between patients and staff, to empower patients to be more informed about their care, and to allow them to work together with staff to make treatment decisions.
Digital medicine is already changing the way people interact with healthcare. Telemedicine services include telephone triage such as 911 and the ability to have video appointments. Smartphone apps help patients self-manage and order repeat prescriptions. Remote monitoring is changing the way care is delivered. The health and care system will need to work with patients to co-create applications of digital technologies which meet their needs.
Advances in healthcare technologies and a greater focus on prevention, health and well-being will bring major improvements in patient outcomes. However, it is critical that the healthcare system prepares to adopt any new technologies in a spirit of equality and fairness. A range of social determinants affect health outcomes, and digital health technologies should redress not reinforce inequalities, with particular attention given to vulnerable and marginalized groups.
There is a need to raise the level of digital literacy among the health and social care workforce, the workforce’s awareness of the required capability, access to training and support, and skills to enable patients and citizens to improve health and well-being through technology.
Digital medicine will require leadership with the capability to direct the agenda, which should include a Board-level member, as well as new senior roles with responsibility for advising boards on digital technologies. Healthcare providers must build skills in data provenance, curation and governance, enhance the understanding of ethical considerations and strengthen the necessary skills to carry out critical appraisal.