18 d’abr. 2021

Health care technology and COVID-19: what will happen in the long term?

Research published by the Health Foundation in march 2021 explores the challenges of implementing health care technologies and investigates patient and staff experiences of technology during the first phase of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It draws on learning from the Health Foundation’s programmes and YouGov surveys of over 4,000 UK adults and over 1,000 NHS staff conducted in October 2020.

During the pandemic, there has been increased NHS use of both established and newer technologies to reduce face-to-face contact and manage demand. Phone consultations dominate, followed by some well-established uses of technology, such as booking appointments by phone or using the NHS website. But some emerging or less established uses of technology, including several explicitly promoted by national bodies, are also apparent. For example, accessing care records electronically, devices for home monitoring, video consultations, and the NHS app.

The research finds that while most of those who used technology more during the early phase of the pandemic found the experience positive, half of these users aged 55 and older (50%) and nearly half of those with a carer (46%) – groups that may have higher need for health care – thought these technology-enabled approaches made for worse quality of care.

Furthermore, the report finds that while 49% of the public and 61% of NHS staff surveyed thought the NHS should be looking to use technology-enabled approaches more in future, a significant minority of both public (36%) and NHS staff surveyed (31%) were unconvinced about the long-term use of these approaches.

While technologies were rolled out with impressive speed, some aspects of implementation – such as evaluation, co-design and customisation – will necessarily have been shortcut, and will need revisiting after the emergency phase of the pandemic is over. Furthermore, many technologies were rolled out specifically to serve pandemic response objectives such as social distancing, so will need to be ‘reoriented’ and developed to serve wider quality and productivity objectives in future.

Through a refresh of the NHS long term plan and other national strategies, policymakers will need to support front-line teams to revisit aspects of implementation and 'reorient' technology-based interventions to serve longer term quality and productivity objectives. Central to this will be evaluating their impact on care quality and developing a vision of ‘what good looks like’.

Access to pdf article (2021)

photo: Strawberry Thief, furnishing fabric, designed by William Morris, made by Morris & Co., 1883, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 

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