The coronavirus pandemic has led to unbelievable changes to our world. Social distancing measures designed to reduce social interaction and contact between people have led to so many people actively exploring how technology can assist usual delivery of their services for the future. In the health service this means not replace human beings in providing care but assist them. There has been an explosion in the use of digital technology in people’s daily lives in a very short period of time. Health and social care services are at the forefront in adopting this change and have had to adopt new ways of working to be able to provide good access to care and assess people with health and wellbeing conditions stranded in their own homes or residing in residential care or nursing homes.
If this pandemic has taught us anything it is the role of technology in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the NHS in times of need. So, we will need to work out how to adopt these digital resources across the NHS, once the pandemic has subsided so that the NHS adapts to a digital future.
Technology-enabled services – what are they?
The digital revolution is changing our NHS beyond recognition and has great potential to transform care by shifting knowledge and power from the doctor or nurse to the patient, so that they are more in control of their health care. This might be by video calling, clinician to patient interactive texting, use of health and wellbeing apps, digital signposting to safe and accurate health information to support clinicians to help you – the patient – to be more in control of your health and wellbeing.
Concerns about a digital future
But what is it about technology that makes people feel uneasy? Well if you are not a millennial, someone born in the 1980s or 1990s, technology isn’t something you grew up with and you may be anxious about new ways of healthy living.
There are still quite a few older adults who do not use the internet and will need greater assistance from their family to capitalise on the digital tools on offer to connect with the health or social care services or engage with others in their personal lives. So, we must look deeper into older people’s attitudes towards technology and persuade them to move with the times, in order for them to fully appreciate the virtual resources that the NHS has to offer. So many who do not use technology in their personal lives have a lack of interest in accessing technology enabled care and feel that this would not have any positive benefits for them or their contemporaries and think that technology is only ‘for the young’. We showcase the benefits that the use of digital tools can bring to people’s personal lives and healthcare on this website, so take a look.
Benefits of digital technology in the NHS
You may well still be thinking, why is this important? The NHS is known globally as the UK’s national treasure. However, it needs to develop creative strategies to alleviate the current pressures it is facing. These pressures include increasing patient demand from an ageing population, and so many people having multiple health conditions. Digital tools are a positive move in the NHS, offering individualised and personalised support. They can help to improve productivity, create efficiencies and empower patients to manage their own health more effectively by encouraging patients to self-care and encourage them to take a more effective role relating to their healthcare demands and long-term conditions.
Have you thought of trying out a personal digital assistant in your home? Or joining a WhatsApp group?
Trial of Alexa Echo as a ‘personal digital assistant’.
· Trials have shown how the Alexa Echo devices can help people with health conditions to self-care.
· Around 100 people across Staffordshire have explored how to use Alexa Echo Show. It helps empower them to manage their diabetes, mental health and other conditions with for example reminders to take their medication or guides them to chair exercises or healthy recipes.2
· Alexa Echo Show have helped to reduce people’s isolation when they are stuck at home and enabled them to video call friends and family.
Engaging patients with social media
· Some practice nurses have set up closed Facebook or WhatsApp groups and invite patients to join these closed social media groups set up and overseen by a clinician to provide peer support, and create a safe space to discuss their conditions and share information with their peers (but not to share details of their clinical management of their health conditions).
1 Cecil, P., 2020. Internet Users, UK – Office For National Statistics. [online] Ons.gov.uk. Available at: <https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/itandinternetindustry/bulletins/internetusers/2019> [Accessed 18 May 2020].
2 Beaney P, Balasubramanian G, Chambers R, Ogunmekan S. GP at foot: remote ways to share management of diabetes amid the COVID-19 crisis BJGP 2020;June.