BLOG: Delivering better care through digital technologies

Professor Martin Severs, NHS Digital Chief Medical Officer and Caldicott Guardian, writes about this week's Clinical Informatics Congress, part of UK Health Show, taking place at ExCeL London.


[London, UK] I am really looking forward to this year’s Clinical Informatics Congress and giving a keynote speech. I have reached a stage in life when I, my family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances really need digital technologies to help them in either their lives or work.

In this context, my keynote this year will be a challenge both to myself and my audience on how we enable patients who want to contribute to their care, as well as the clinicians who deliver it, to have an improved experience and deliver better care through digital technologies. By better care I mean more efficient, effective and safer.

I am going to use real examples from my own life and work experience to move from the past or present to where we need to be in the future. There will be two main recurrent themes.

Patients are the great untapped resource for making health and social care more efficient and effective. Although we all talk the talk, there is very little day-to-day experience of walking the walk and giving patients the power, authority and tools to make a difference. Throughout my talk, I am going to suggest some basic building blocks.

We think nothing about managing our own headache, so with the right education and information, surely a significant proportion of the population could better manage their own hypertension? As a patient, I access my record and all I see is a list of the medication I’m taking and whether I suffer from any allergies.

How does that empower the patient? If people are going to be able to manage their own chronic illness they need access to a comprehensive record, education about their illness, training and prescription of a medical device and the ability to interact with their service provider, whether this is a hospital or GP. Patients are currently a free and untapped resource. Who better to improve data quality in the NHS than patients themselves?

The NHS has a very big litigation bill. Communication errors form a major component. One of the causes of complaints is missed results.

“A lack of follow-up of test results for inpatients ranged from 20.04 per cent to 61.6 per cent and for patients treated in the emergency department ranged from 1.0 per cent to 75 per cent when calculated as a proportion of tests," found a systematic review in 2010

Should patients automatically get access to test results one month after reporting so abnormal tests are less likely to be missed? Which option would give patients the best outcome?

Clinicians are expensive, highly educated and trained individuals, armed with a set of hard and soft skills to help their patients. Technology needs to help and enable them to use their talents to best effect and not divert them from their core role.

This is a double-edged sword as it means using data and digital technologies to help and aide that process, so that the patient record and the data it contains becomes crucial and mission critical.

'No record means no defence' is a phrase we all know from the insurance industry, but we will soon learn (if we haven’t already), that 'poor records mean poor data, which means poor performance, poor digital support and most importantly higher patient risk'.

We could start improving the situation by embracing the aspirational document published by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges: Clinical Requirements 2020 as the basis of the next Long Term Plan.

We have a great agenda for the Congress. It is very interactive and rather than being focused on  show and tell, it’s all about engagement and learning. Have a great learning experience.

BJ-HC is a media partner for the UK Health Show

UK Health Show 2018

The UK Health Show is the leading free-to-attend gathering of NHS, primary care, independent sector, local authorities and private providers who want to over-come the challenges of digital transformation and health and social care integration to create a long-term, sustainable healthcare system that delivers the best possible patient outcomes.

ExCeL London
One Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock
E16 1XL
United Kingdom

Martin Severs

Chief Medical Officer and Caldicott Guardian, NHS Digital

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