Eric Topol and his team imagine a vision for the future of technology driven healthcare in the NHS.

policy digest

26 / 02 / 2019

Preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital future
The Topol Review, February 2019

In this independent report commissioned by then-Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, Eric Topol and his team conduct a comprehensive review into the future of healthcare technologies and the way in which a future workforce might utilise them.

Drawing upon the expertise of seven separate panels, the paper identifies three technologies that will shape the future of healthcare; Genomics, digital medicine and artificial Intelligence, stating that these must be supported by three key principles

  • Patients need to be included as partners and informed about health technologies, with a particular focus on vulnerable and marginalised groups to ensure equitable access.
  • The healthcare workforce needs expertise and guidance to evaluate new technologies, using processes grounded in real-world evidence.
  • 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 paper states that within 20 years, 90 per cent of all jobs in the NHS will require some element of digital skills, with the next decade presenting an opportunity to redress data governance and cyber security concerns, agree ethical frameworks for as-yet undefined technologies and support staff to drive these technologies forward. With this in mind, Topol and his team makes a total of 43 recommendations including:

  • Ensuring pipelines and career pathways for clinicians to specialise in bioinformatics
  • Providing support for new roles with a strong focus on genomics
  • Rapidly improving digital literacy among the current workforce
  • Increasing numbers of clinical staff working in partnership with academia and industry
  • Strengthen and enhance ability to disseminate and share learning
  • Assignment of board level responsibility for safe and effective adoption of new technologies
  • Trust level support for staff to develop genomics and digital technology capability

Stressing the importance of bringing about a cultural shift that better accommodates digital innovation, the paper discusses what practical measures the service should take to promote greater uptake. Many of these measures focus on the role of the workforce in driving these changes, but equal weight is given to role of regulators, national bodies and academic institutions, all of whom will be integral to creating the right framework for innovation.

The report concludes that in order to drive get the next wave of innovation, the NHS must learn from previous change projects and actively provide continuous learning opportunities in this area, lest the technological innovations outpace the training required for the workforce to properly use them.


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