Analysis of a digital health programme in the UK emphasises main challenges hindering progress
[Glasgow, UK] Interoperability is considered more than a ‘technical challenge’ when it comes to large-scale implementation of digital health programmes, a new study led by the University of Glasgow, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows.
“Commercial companies often perceive standards and interoperability as a threat to their business model, since it was not a priority in comparison with efforts to increase their own individual market share as the market develops and matures,” the authors write.
The paper examines the deployment of a £37m national digital health programme called 'Delivering Assisted Living Lifestyles at Scale' (dallas) in the UK, identifying three levels of factors that had an impact on its progress, ‘micro, meso and macro’.
“Factors hindering implementation included: lack of information technology (IT) infrastructure, uncertainty around information governance, lack of incentives to prioritise interoperability, lack of precedence on accountability within the commercial sector, and a market perceived as difficult to navigate.
“Factors enabling implementation were: clinical endorsement, champions who promoted digital health, and public and professional willingness,” the study reveals.
Issues to be acknowledged and addressed
The dallas programme, conducted from 2012 until 2015, offered a platform for the implementation of digital health tools to ‘enable preventive care, self-care, and independent living at scale’, aimed at children, adults and elderly people.
However, the issues identified are not considered ‘insurmountable challenges’, although it is emphasised that they need to be ‘acknowledged and addressed’ in order to support innovation across healthcare systems and improve health outcomes for patients as the authors provide a set of ten recommendations to tackle challenges in the implementation of digital health programmes.
“Our search responds to calls for exploration of current barriers to the wide scale adoption of digital health, and offers recommendations that could help realise its full potential,” concluded Dr Marilyn Lennon, Co-lead of the study from the University of Strathclyde.
Readiness for Delivering Digital Health at Scale: Lessons from a Longitudinal Qualitative Evaluation of a National Digital Health Innovation Program in the United Kingdom is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, funded by Innovate UK and it was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research on the 16th of February 2017, written by Marilyn R Lennon, Matt-Mouley Bouamrane, Alison M Devlin, Siobhan O'Connor, Catherine O'Donnell, Ula Chetty, Ruth Agbakoba, Annemieke Bikker, Eleanor Grieve, Tracy Finch, Nicholas Watson, Sally Wyke, Frances S Mair.