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Could this be the future?

Over recent months many of us have been talking a lot about the impact the COVID pandemic has had on the adoption of digital ways of doing things in healthcare.

I say adoption rather than transformation because I have a view that we have not, by and large, transformed the way we deliver services or pathways. What we have done at a large scale is adopt ‘digital’ tools to replace physical interventions with virtual ones.

For many this has meant using the phone or virtual consultations as the first point of contact with a patient rather than a face to face appointment. While this is great it has not been a wholesale transformation of how we deliver our health and care services, rather it has been an understandable business continuity response to a pandemic.

I want to be clear, this adoption and increased trust in ‘digital’ is amazing! COVID has created a quantum shift in our thinking about using technology and data across the healthcare board that would have taken years in any other environment.

It has awoken a demand for technology and data to drive improvement that we have been talking about for years but not really seeing. Maybe we have finally realised good technology and data can save lives?

But what is next?

How do we leverage this?

We know that we cannot afford the growth in demand for health and care if we continue to run services in the way we have been. We must do something different if we are going to save ourselves from ourselves.

Now is our moment! We are unlikely to have this opportunity again in our generation.

So, what do we need to do? A few thoughts:

· We need to transform! To recognise that there is no such thing as digital transformation, it is just transformation! To understand that our clinical models and pathways can no longer be analogue or digital, they must be both and they must be tailored to the individual.

· We need to be brave! Take a chance and experiment to find new ways of working and new ways of delivering. To focus on wellbeing and prevention as much or more than care.

· We need to build! Workforce and competencies needed to deliver transformation are not the same as they were yesterday, we need to build the teams that can lead, design, deliver, and sustain our transformations.

In conclusion I think we need to start realising that our digital future is not digital at all, it is just the future. It is a future that needs to encompass the best of the in-person experience and the best of the digital experience. It is a future that we must all play a part in creating.

Written by

SABP NHS CDIO, husband, father, servant, leader, public speaker, learner, fun lover and fitness nut (sometimes). EGA, NHSDA #cohort1. All views my own.

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