The pandemic has placed tremendous strain on the NHS, but by necessity the uptake and application of digital technologies has dramatically accelerated – for clinicians and patients. According to data compiled by NHS Digital:
- The NHS App recorded a 912% increase in people using the app between December 2019 (192,676) – Dec 2020 (1,951,640)
- The number of repeat prescriptions made through the app rose by 495% between January 2020 (45,931) – November 2020 (273,351)
- Recorded patient views through the app increased by 321% in the same period of time
- Some NHS staff have been supported to provide care from their homes – whilst patient portals are providing information, advice, results, connectivity and home testing capabilities
- NHS 111 recorded 3,569,917 online sessions between June – November 2020, a 257% increase on the same period in 2019.
The adoption of technological innovation at an unprecedented scale and pace was a central plank of the NHS Long Term Plan and unlikely to diminish once the immediate crisis has passed.
In dealing with the pandemic, the NHS has demonstrated it can adapt and respond at speed – the continued acceleration of technologies will be crucial in dealing with the excess demand and must continue as systems adjust to a post-pandemic future. However, as delegates will explore – this acceleration must be paired with a cognisant effort to bring people who are not digital-natives along for the journey; and recognise the importance of confidentiality and consent – ethics on which trust in medicine has been built on.