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Driving a patient-centric view to improve technology in healthcare

Dr Sam Shah, Director of Digital Development at NHS England, considers the impact of new digital tools and services on patients and how this should shape the future of technology.

By Sam Shah, 3 April 2019

An image of Sam Shah

As the digitisation of healthcare continues to evolve with new products, tools and services being introduced every day, it is vital that we reflect on what this means for patients now and in the future. Digital technology is part of healthcare delivery and we need to ensure we deliver services with the right design so patients get the right care in the right place, when they need it most.

Over the past few years we have seen the NHS introduce many new digital tools and services. I recently wrote about the consequences of digitising the health service based on convenience rather than actual needs.

I still see decisions being made every day, that start with either a process we want to introduce or the technology that is perceived to be important. For example, the starting point is often interoperability, video consultation, and AI; but not so much emphasis on the underlying problems we want to solve or the outcome we’re looking to achieve.

I also see technology being introduced into existing single services in the system e.g. 111, 999, emergency departments (a service-centric view), rather than designing technology to improve a patient’s experience and outcomes, which can span multiple channels and services (a patient-centric view).

We need to design our future NHS in a way that is as citizen centric as the one started in 1948.  We have no shortage of vision, ambition and good ideas. But we need to make some hard choices about what to focus on and where to prioritise our efforts. This is why we have started a user-centred research and service design project working with NHS England and NHS Digital (urgent and emergency care). This will help us identify opportunities where digital (tools, channels, technology, data, ways of working) has the potential to make most impact on patient and staff experience, improving outcomes and creating system efficiencies in urgent and emergency care.

One of the goals in the NHS Long Term Plan is to design and reduce pressure on emergency services. Working in partnership with FutureGov our multi-disciplinary team will give us the potential to reframe how we think about opportunities for data and technology to deliver better care and to relieve system pressures and reduce the friction in urgent and emergency care. We will map the end-to-end patient and staff experience, identifying where digital can make the most impact and bring the future vision to life through prototypes. We want to immerse ourselves into the lived experience of patients and staff to work out what it is they really need, their touchpoints in the health system and synthesise key pain points so we can better design and deliver urgent and emergency care services around individuals. To make this a reality we will triangulate qualitative research, data science and desk research.

Like much of the NHS, the urgent and emergency care system is complex and fragmented, with many care settings, providers and organisations involved, and service models that differ around the country. We will create an ecosystem map to better understand system flows, demand, IT software, care settings and the relationships between them. 

Being armed with this knowledge means we can then make more informed decisions. We are building the vision for future urgent and emergency care services by placing user experience and research at the centre of the design process so we can meet the needs of people. 

Colleagues from across NHS England and NHS Digital (urgent and emergency care) will be working with FutureGov who demonstrate the value of person-centred design, digital and change in transforming public services. If you would like to contribute to this research or receive regular updates, email emma.mulqueeny1@nhs.net and join us at the DUEC2019 Conference on 14 May 2019, where there will be an opportunity to hear the latest insights and engage with the NHS EnglandNHS Digital (urgent and emergency care) and FutureGov Teams.

Last edited: 23 July 2019 11:03 am