DHSC publishes ambitious digital vision for healthcare

Department call matched by new NHS Digital framework on data and technology standards

NHS screengrab

The Department of Health and Social Care has published a policy paper laying out ambitious plans for the use of technology and data to improve NHS and social care services for staff and patients.

The future of healthcare: our vision for digital, data and technology in health and care paper has outlined a set of guiding principles for a new generation of digital services that could include artificial intelligence to help diagnose diseases and gain insights into preventions, or the use of robotics for medication management.

The department said its vision is “not just about getting the current systems to work better” but suggested a “radical new approach to technology across the system”. This includes ideas for a modern technology architecture that addresses the problem that IT systems used in health and care settings often lack interoperability.


Ideas include putting tools in modern browsers, prioritising the public cloud and building a data layer with registers and APIs in to solutions.

“Technology systems used daily across hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes, pharmacies and community care facilities don’t talk to each other, fail frequently and do not follow modern cyber security practices,” says the paper. “As a result, some people are getting suboptimal care, staff are frustrated and money could be saved and released for the front line.”

To answer the call, NHS Digital simultaneously published a digital, data and technology standards framework which proposes using open, international standards that address the user needs of patients and care professionals, among others. 

DHSC also announced the launch of a new Healthtech Advisory Board in the paper on which technology experts, clinicians and academics will sit, reporting to the secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock. DHSC said the board will help to create a culture of innovation, yet “help us avoid small, piecemeal failures and increasing our legacy IT with half-finished attempts.”

The paper illustrated the potential of digital services to transform healthcare services with 10 examples from the private and public sectors, including Hampshire County Council’s trial of Amazon Echo and Alexa to improve social care services.

“The state of online services, basic IT and clinical tools in health and care is far behind where it needs to be. Despite much good practice and some pockets of excellence, for many people – patients, service users, carers and staff – we still need to sort the basics.

“By harnessing the power of technology and creating an environment to enable innovation, we can manage the growing demand for services and create the secure and sustainable future for the NHS and social care system that we all want to see,” the paper said.

DHSC invites views via a questionnaire. While the paper is mainly aimed at innovators and suppliers of digital technology, health and care providers and other organisations in the sector, anyone is invited to respond.



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