The Department of Health and Social Care lays out its vision for the role of technology in health and care

policy digest

30 / 10 / 2018

The future of healthcare: our vision for digital, data and technology in health and care
Department of Health and Social Care, October 2018

This timely report from the Department of Health and Social Care reinforces the new Health and Social Care Secretary’s mantra: the NHS needs to embrace the power of digital. It is welcome that the report covers more than criticism of pagers and fax machines or espousing the wonders of apps. Refreshingly the report takes pause to note the developments in AI, data drivers, robotics, cloud-based data sharing, and, far more helpfully to the nightshift nurse, modular IT. Moreover, the new Health Secretary clearly has a healthy appreciation that members of the public value privacy and security of their very personal data, so some useful guiding principles establish what should be best and standard practice: 

  • User need
  • Privacy and security
  • Interoperability and openness
  • Inclusion

There are some basic rules on how the NHS should approach new technology, like understanding who the users of a system, website or service are, what they need to do, the problems or frustrations they currently experience and what can be done to remove these barriers. Patients will be pleased to hear that the Secretary of State is open to personal technology aiding people to make health-appropriate decisions, self-monitor and stay independent for longer, just as they will look forward to the day they do not have to repeat their medical history to the next doctor or nurse time and time again. 

Having said all of this, these are only the foundations - the principles upon which systems need to be designed. There is no new money or resource attached specifically to this paper to ensure that this becomes a reality for the patients and staff of tomorrow. Nonetheless, it charts a wide-reaching and considered, if not a conclusive, list of priorities, principles and ambitions, giving some indication as to the direction of travel for patients, the health and care service, and the organisation's who design and construct the technology alluded to in the report.


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