It has become received wisdom that the NHS struggles to adopt digital innovation, with many government reports and research papers highlighting barriers to the spread of technology. Yet during the COVID-19 pandemic, many NHS providers have moved services online at astonishing pace.
This paper, commissioned by the Academic Health Science Network, looks at four digital innovations in health services from the UK and the Nordic countries: the TeleCare North programme, which provides remote treatment for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); the Patients Know Best portal and electronic health record; remote diabetes monitoring for children at Helsinki University Hospital; and the Huoleti app that connects patients with a support network.
The case studies illustrate the potential of digital technology to transform care, particularly through empowering patients, supporting stronger therapeutic relationships and effective teamworking across professional boundaries, and creating networks and communities to support patients.
The paper also calls on health care providers to assess the impact on staff and patients of the rapid transition to online services driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Has the impact of the changes been fully assessed? And, in light of these case studies, is there scope to be more ambitious in redesigning services?