Digital and data transformation within the NHS

Digital and data transformation within the NHS

On the 15th and 16th June 2022, the NHS Confed Expo took place and was one of the biggest and most significant healthcare conferences in the UK. It provided an opportunity for health and care leaders and their teams to come together at a time of transformation and recovery.

One of the main topics on the agenda was ‘Digital and data transformation,’ which has been an important topic for the NHS for many years now. In 2019 the NHS launched a long-term plan, with digital transformation at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Alongside the long-term plan, the NHS also launched NHSX. NHSX is a platform that brings together teams from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England, and NHS Improvement into one central division.

What has NHSX done so far to help with digital transformation in the healthcare industry?

Over the past three years, NHSX has made huge progress in its steps toward digital transformation. Some of its successes include:

  • NHS Datastore, which provided a near-real-time data-driven foundation for handling the pandemic that in turn assisted the vaccine rollout
  • Moving Shared Care Records into every Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) except one, enabling health and care staff to view and edit the same version of a person’s medical history
  • Supporting West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust to set up their first virtual ward, there are now 44 virtual wards live across the country caring for over 2,500 patients
  • NHS Covid pass which enabled millions of people to travel and go to events more safely

Click here to read our article on 5 ways technology is used in healthcare

How is the NHS continuing their digital transformation?

This is only the start of digital transformation within the NHS, there is still plenty of room for the development of an initiative for technology in the healthcare sector. As mentioned previously, ‘digital and data transformation’ remained a prevalent topic at the NHS Confed Expo. Some of the sessions based on this topic included:

Improving data and analytics skills for the healthcare industry

The NHS creates a huge amount of data, which is analysed and used to help optimise services and patient care. NHSX has created an Analytics Unit, which consists of a team of experienced analysts, economists, and data professionals. Their aim is to share best data practices and techniques through a programme, which involves three key areas of focus, NHSX internal analytics, innovation analytics and analytics as a profession.

Click here to read more about the NHSX Analytics Unit

Artificial Intelligence (AI) development in healthcare

Artificial Intelligence is rapidly developing in many industries, especially within healthcare, where it has so far been used in the early detection of diseases such as cancer, or within robotic surgery, and it has the potential to do so much more. The government has invested £250 million into creating the NHS AI Lab which will help further develop existing promising AI-driven technologies, some of these include:

  • Image recognition technologies including mammograms, brain scans, eye scans and heart monitoring for cancer screening
  • AI technologies for operational efficiency purposes e.g., predictive models that better estimate future needs of beds, drugs, devices, or surgeries.

Click here to read the NHS Artificial Intelligence report

Digital transformation for mental health services

NHSX has developed a programme to help identify and deliver digital solutions to help the most vulnerable citizens after COVID-19. Some of these citizen groups include residents of care homes, recipients of home care, carers, the ‘shielded,’ older and vulnerable people who are self-isolating but not shielding, and the NHS and care workforce. Some initiatives already created from the programme include:

  • Establishing a dedicated website through which 1,000 food boxes have been delivered to NHS staff
  • Supported the rollout of NHSMail to more than 11,000 care settings enabling better communication with their local health services
  • Piloted the use of Facebook Portal, with 2050 devices set to be deployed across several care homes, hospitals, hospices, learning disability and autism and supported living settings in England

Developing IT and tech talent in healthcare

In order for the digital transformation to continue within the NHS, they need to consider hiring IT and tech professionals and re-skilling the current workforce. According to a report from the NHS, within 20 years, 90% of all jobs in the NHS will require some element of digital skills. In order to bridge the skills, gap the NHS plan to collaborate with academia and industry to attract global technical talent through apprentices and master’s schemes. In 2018, the NHS Digital Academy was established to increase the digital skills of our workforce and to support a new generation of digital leaders who can drive the transformation of the NHS.

The NHS prides itself on becoming a global leader in digital healthcare, with the aim to digitise the entire NHS by 2024. Digital technology has great potential to improve how the NHS delivers its services in a new and modern way; providing faster, safer and more convenient care. The demand for skilled IT and tech professionals will only continue to grow, from Data Scientists, Software Engineers to Cyber Security specialists. Now is the time to harness your skills for some of the most in-demand tech roles for years to come.

Click here to read our top 10 it and tech skills in 2022