Report examines digital technology in health education

According to a report by NHS England, digital technology has transformed health and care education, and it is important that this progress continues to equip future learners with the right skills.

The review examines the current state of digital technology in undergraduate and pre-registration health and care education and sets out a list of recommendations.

The review included an online survey, case studies and focus groups.

The report investigates how digital technologies are being used in learning, and the technical and specialist skills required by teaching staff now and in the future.

The report found that digital technology increases flexibility, accessibility and collaboration but can potentially reduce engagement, though it is not always easy for everyone to access resources equally.

It was also found that using digital technology to simulate ‘safe’ practice is enriching experiences and developing competencies but risks dehumanising practice and the right systems, support and training need to be in place to make the most of technology, and many people see themselves as digitally ‘self-taught’, which means levels of skills vary.

Some of the recommendations for HEIs, NHS England, providers, regulators and other organisations that came from the report include: drawing up a digital education strategy to embed technology into health and care education for generations to come; ensuring a range of technology is available for learners, with ‘digital specialist’ roles to support its application; providing reliable access to the appropriate equipment and connectivity for students and staff, which could include loaning laptops and iPads.

Patrick Mitchell, director of innovation, digital and transformation at NHS England, said: “Technological advancements have resulted in seismic shifts in how we live, work, communicate and learn. But in the NHS, we cannot take this progress for granted, so it is vital that we continue to ask whether we are doing enough to equip learners for a career in a health and care system where digital technology plays such a key role.  

“This review not only gives an important insight into the role digital technology currently plays in health and social care education, it provides a rounded view of what can be done in every part of the system to capitalise on the great leaps already taken – taking into account the views of learners and educators from across the country who are experiencing this every day.”