On Monday Louise McKenzie, Director of Workforce Transformation, and I attended the launch of the Topol Review. I wanted to share a summary of this look into the future of digital healthcare technologies and stimulate our thinking about how we need to start preparing and be ‘digital ready’ for the future.
The Topol Review was led by Dr Eric Topol, commissioned by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and Health Education England, aligned with the NHS Long Term Plan and upcoming Workforce Implementation Plan, and focuses on preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital and technological innovations of the future.
The Topol Review has delivered three key principles to support the deployment of digital healthcare technologies throughout the NHS so that the significant and anticipated benefits to society, patients and professionals can be:
- Patients need to be included as partners and informed about health technologies, with a particular focus on vulnerable/marginalised groups to ensure equitable access.
- The healthcare workforce needs expertise and guidance to evaluate new technologies, using processes grounded in real-world evidence.
- The gift of time: wherever possible the adoption of new technologies should enable staff to gain more time to care, enabling deeper interaction with patients.
The review predicts that technologies such as genomics, digital medicine, artificial intelligence and robotics will have a profound effect on care in the coming years, much as penicillin and MRI has done in the past.
Wider uptake of these sorts of solutions will change clinical roles - for the better, help address workforce shortfalls, ensure clinical time is patient facing by automating routine and/or administrative tasks and bring in the revolution that is personalised medicine. So we need to be ready! We will need to work with and support colleagues through the change(s) with new education and training as well as the necessary infrastructure.
Much of this is about empowering patients and the public and truly enabling them to be ‘experts in me’ and partners in their healthcare planning – just as we have said in the TeamASPH Together We Care and Digital Strategies so we are ahead of the curve, in our thinking at least! The approach will further personalise care: shifting it closer to home; give patients more control in their own health and wellbeing; strengthen preventative and predictive medicine with the use of genomics including identifying, at birth, those who are likely to develop disease in many decades yet to come, targeted preventative intervention in those individuals could lead to the ultimate health prize, disease prevention; and increase patient ownership of their care records and healthcare scheduling as well as improving diagnostics, treatments and cures.
I guess what struck me was how significant this collection of changes and interventions could be, but also what an enormous amount of work there is to be done to take the opportunity and really fulfil the ambition. I think the gift of time to care that is offered is an enormous prize that we must grab for ourselves, patients and the public, and when this is set against our current context and experience, where I suspect we all feel that time to care is in very short supply, this does indeed feel aspirational.
Nevertheless, we are already on our way and have examples underway such as:
- Careflow Vitals and Careflow Connect
- Maternity App BadgerNet – facilitating joined-up community care
- Electronic Referral Service (eRS)
- iMSK and Urology virtual appointments
- Surveillance equipment for the very sick and vulnerable patients in the hospital
- Virtual Reality for training staff in dementia care
- An outline business case for digital pathology using artificial intelligence based on machine learning.
The biggest ticket for us coming up is the new electronic Patient Record (ePR), which will replace our PAS, IPL and RealTime systems. The new ePR will provide us with immense opportunities to transform the way we work and really move forward on that journey I have described above.
To deliver the objectives of the Topol review will take a lot of time and money, and the main challenge will be finding innovative and accessible ways to involve the patients and public in the approach we are developing, so I’d be grateful for your ideas on doing that well. I think this has the potential to be a step change and I really would encourage you all to read the review and get involved as we deliver on its promise together. To read more please visit the Topol Review website, the NHS Providers summary and a couple of ASPH specific briefings kindly prepared by Olwen Revill from our Library Service.
With very best wishes,