How digital transformation can help the U.K. health service

Posted Feb 8, 2018 by Tim Sandle
The ‘Five Year Forward View’ and ‘Personalised Health and Care 2020’ plans outline the commitment by the health and care system and the U.K. Government to use information and technology to transform the country’s health services.
Junior doctors in Britain vote to stage their first "all-out" strikes in the history of th...
Junior doctors in Britain vote to stage their first "all-out" strikes in the history of the National Health Service (NHS) in a fierce pay row
Karen Bleier, AFP
Central to the plan is a commitment to make sure patient records are digital and interoperable by 2020, for the U.K. National Health Service (NHS). This will allow medics to access records remotely, such as linking up specialized medical centers with general practices. The use of e-records will also provide a means for patients to access their records, bringing a new level of transparency.
This is set out in two reports from the British government. The first is titled the “Five Year Forward View”. In this report, there is a government commitment for “making fuller use of digital technologies, new skills and roles, and offering greater convenience for patients.” This includes the issue of access to patient records as well as improved transparency of performance data, so that patients can assess how effective a given treatment was. With the new e-health records, patients will have full access to these records, and be able to write into them.
The second plan is called the “Personalised Health and Care 2020”. This plan includes an expansion of new applications, such as “NHS accredited health and care apps and digital information services.” Furthermore, there is a plan to utilize real-time digital information on a person’s health and care by 2020 for all NHS-funded services.
Other aspects of the digital strategy to make the health service more efficient include:
Workforce planning,
Commercial and procurement tools and platform;
Better intelligence about our stakeholders,
Digital services for staff as well as customers,
Operational management such as incident management and response.
Despite these measures there remains some way to go, according to analysis by Information Age. One stumbling block is the lack of agreed standards for interoperability for digital health systems. This, the website states: “creates much uncertainty for both NHS procurers and suppliers alike.”
A second challenge will be cybersecurity and a third relates to data privacy. With privacy, due to a decentralized ecosystem, the NHS IT system is particularly complex, formed of data controllers and processors with many different policies, privacy notices and consents.
With the security issue, the digital plans are underpinned with a dedicated cyber-strategy designed to enable secure transformation that protects data from outsider threats.