Revolutionising Healthcare: Clinical Leads Discuss the Future of the NHS and Digital Health

Shot of a young doctor sharing information from his digital tablet with an older patient

As we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the NHS, we asked our clinical leads to share their thoughts on the future of digital health, and how it can help alleviate pressures on a healthcare system that has become the lifeblood of our nation.

We heard from clinicians in primary care, cardiology, respiratory care, physiotherapy and paediatrics.

Digital health in primary care

Tom Micklewright, Medical Director and GP, said:

“I think that we’ll see patients interacting with the health service in much the same way as we now shop, bank and book travel online.

Right now, we’re in the early stages in healthcare: online prescription ordering is just the start.

The next jump will be for home diagnostics, certain therapies and actionable health data and insights to be delivered digitally, putting patients back in the driving seat of their care.”

Richard Pratt, Primary Care Lead, said:

“The 10 minute face-to-face appointment as one-size-fits-all solution to General Practice is no more.  A crucial part of the mix, but not the only option. We are all better for it.

Primary care is evolving, flexing to meet the varied needs of the people we help. No two people’s needs are identical, so we need to match the support to clinical need and patient wishes.

Digital health tools will underpin a central part of this strategy, from the simple messaging of blood results to patients, app-enabled supported self-care, digitally driven diagnostics through to virtual wards. Digital health tools are already no less important than the stethoscope. Exciting to see what comes next.”

Digital health in cardiology

Kyle McBeath, Cardiology Lead, said:

“Digital health will make the NHS the service we all dream it could be. Supporting patients when they want and in the way that they want. Supporting clinicians to make better decisions based on complex and integrated patient data. Supporting healthcare organisations to improve patient experience and understand their local health systems in much greater detail.”

Digital health in respiratory care

Helen Parrott, Respiratory Lead, said:

“I hope that digital health will ultimately reduce health access inequalities through enhancing digital literacy and in the provision of a variety of care options to best meet the needs of the individual – home diagnostic testing, remote consultations and virtual wards to name just a few!

Digital health tools provide an important opportunity to ensure people with long term respiratory conditions are true partners in their care.

I believe the future NHS will guarantee the provision of trusted digital tools for managing your own condition, whatever that might be, so that decisions about care and treatment put the person at the centre and are based on high quality, longitudinal data.”

Digital health in physiotherapy

Euan McComiskie, Physiotherapy Lead, said:

“Technology will not replace a physiotherapist, but a tech-enabled physio will absolutely replace one who is not. The way our patients expect to experience physiotherapy is changing and so must our delivery. Competence and confidence are key.

It is just as important to improve the base level of digital competence as it is to support the digital innovators in the profession. Showcasing examples of good practice and highlighting the individuals leading the way will help to develop the confidence to explore the use of digital in physiotherapy.”

Digital health in paediatric care

Tamsin Holland Brown, Paediatric Lead, said:

“Children are the future. Economic analyses show that investment in young children‘s health has the biggest return on investment. Micro health behaviour nudges at a young age end up having a massive impact over time and even my own local research revealed how much even very young children want to have control of their health conditions.

The future of paediatric healthcare sees children being educated about safe digital health access at school so that they are prepared for accessing health care through a digital front door and know how to safely share and access their health data.

Children need to learn about preventative health strategies early in schools, clubs and libraries. The creation of digital app libraries in schools is something I have loved at ORCHA. Children in remote areas or countries with little access to health care professionals could be shown how to self-monitor and manage health care where resources are scarce, use their health data – through passive monitoring or active sensors or wearables – help professionals prioritise face-to-face hospital appointments for those that need them most.

Children are the Trojan horse; teach a child (who feels comfortable having grown up  with devices) and they teach their family who may need support to access digital health. We must leave no child behind, even those who have little access to a digital environment.

But as the digital divide closes over time, with more people able to access affordable digital technologies, the future for children is affordable digital health, via apps, wearables and assistive technologies to make a life time of difference.”

At ORCHA, we look forward to the NHS taking steps to integrate more digital technologies in everyday practise, to benefit the health and wellbeing of the nation.