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Digital division NHSX looks to improve experience for doctors as well as patients

Patient and public buy-in for data use essential

Nicola Blackwood

Health minister Nicola Blackwood has laid out priorities for the NHS’ new ‘NHSX’ division – and making digital technology easier to use for clinicians as well as patients is one of them.

NHSX was unveiled in February and creates a single division charged with speeding digital transformation in the NHS, under a new chief executive, ex-diplomat Matthew Gould.

The creation of NHSX is intended to end the fragmentation of digital leadership between NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care, although some questioned the wisdom of creating another stand-alone division in an already crowded NHS ecosystem.

The new division is the brainchild of health secretary Matt Hancock, who has grown frustrated by slow progress in introducing new technology across England’s health service – and declared a ban on the use of fax machines, an example of the NHS clinging on to outdated technology.

But ministers know that clinician buy-in is vitally important for major upgrades in IT and technology, and priorities unveiled yesterday include the goal of easing the burden of data input that currently falls on healthcare professionals.

Speaking after Hancock and Gould at the CogX conference in London yesterday, health minister Nicola Blackwood set out a vision for how digital tech could help modernise the NHS and improve the experience of the service for all.

NHSX’s three priorities:

  1. Cutting the amount of time that clinicians spend inputting and accessing data in NHS systems
  2. Making it easier for patients to access key NHS services on their smartphone
  3. Ensuring essential diagnostic information can be accessed safely and reliably, from wherever a patient is in the NHS.

Blackwood also mentioned another big goal of NHSX, to facilitate a ‘data-driven ecosystem’ in the NHS. The hope is that by digitalising records and creating regulated access to data, the NHS could become a world leader in improving care and  medical research thanks to its unique data resources.

“This is another priority for NHSX – to create a data-driven ecosystem. Not only allowing patients to have better access to their own data, but ensuring relevant clinical, genomic, phenotypic, behavioural and environmental data from a range of sources can be circulated between patients, clinicians and care systems.”

The NHS is working with Understanding Patient Data, a dedicated organisation which brings together patient representatives and healthcare leaders to set out ground rules for data use, and ensure patients and the public have fully bought into the use of data and data-sharing.

There have been numerous concerns about how confidential NHS patient records can be leaked or misused in recent years, and a recent YouGov survey (sponsored by Sensyne Health) which showed support for data-sharing for research purposes, but a lack of trust in big tech firms accessing this data.

An even bigger challenge for the NHS in realising its digital ambitions is the lack of budget for major upgrades, with wider financial pressures and staffing shortages claiming the lion's share of managers' time.

Read the minister's speech in full here: Embracing AI and technology to improve patient outcomes

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

20th June 2019

From: Healthcare

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