Look to Europe to strengthen NHS digital ambitions

New research has suggested that learning from the experience of other European health systems can ensure the NHS makes best use of digital health technology to benefit both patients and staff post-pandemic.

The Nuffield Trust research suggests that the pandemic has proved a game changer for the NHS and international health systems with a huge increase in the use of remote consultations and technology to support patients at home, as just one example. But, it is not only the NHS that has faced challenges in making sure digital technology is embedded in the most beneficial way for patients and health care professionals.

The report looks at the approach to digital health care taken by five European countries – Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Portugal – who have all made significant progress. It found that the countries that have performed well in embedding digital technology in health care benefit from the use of digital across multiple public services, including areas such as voting and education.

Furthermore, where digital technology is widely used to access public services, the use of digital technologies and data to support health care has been less controversial, widely expected and accepted as the norm.

It also reports that, across these systems, measuring progress or impact of digital innovations in a meaningful way remains challenging. Where possible, measures should focus on outcomes, rather than just the availability of digital health tools.

Rachel Hutchings, from the Nuffield Trust, said: “Like the NHS, digital technology has played a significant role in countries’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. In some cases, this has built on years of significant investment in digital infrastructure across all public services including health care.

“Although digital transformation is not an end in itself, it will play a key role as health systems around the world recover from the pandemic. Despite differences between them, there is a lot to learn by looking at the approach other countries have taken. This will help the NHS to embed these solutions for the long-term, to the benefit of both patients and health care professionals.”

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