Digital lag holding back healthcare technology progress

More than a third of healthcare professionals believe it will take at least a decade before their organisation is paperless and fully digital according to research by Deloitte’s Centre for Health Solutions. Among senior healthcare leaders, the figure rises to two-thirds, who cite funding, leadership and interoperability as the three key challenges.

Funding is listed as the main obstacle for digital uptake, with 56% of healthcare professionals saying that the cost of the technology is holding back their organisation. One in 10 believe that it is finding the right technologies (11%) and the complexity of the technology (10%) which is hampering uptake.

The findings come from Deloitte's Shaping the Future of Digital Healthcare report, surveying 1,500 clinical staff across the UK, including doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, as well as interviews with 65 senior stakeholders from across the industry.

Sara Siegel, partner and head of healthcare at Deloitte, said: “Digital healthcare will make it easier for people to access services more quickly, while providing staff greater visibility of the information they need to treat patients efficiently and effectively. This will help to bridge the gap between the challenge of increasing demand for healthcare and the growing level of staff shortages.

“In 2019, digital transformation lags well behind where it needs to be if healthcare is to remain sustainable and affordable. Accelerating digital transformation will require a radical shift in the culture and mind-set of healthcare leaders. The variable state of IT infrastructure and difference in rates of adoption of technologies requires more sustained management and investment to accelerate and improve the uptake of technologies.”

Deloitte’s research highlights the steps needed to accelerate digital transformation, including enhancing basic infrastructure requirements, improving data storage and access to health data, establishing robust data governance arrangements and improving the digital literacy of staff and patients. Interviewees rate the current state of NHS IT infrastructure as five out of 10 on average, with concerns including the wide variation in digital maturity, cyber security and patchy connectivity.

The research also highlights a need for further investment in the basic technologies required for digital transformation, and for this to be widely available across healthcare. Today, electronic health records (EHRs) are the most widely-adopted technology with 91% of staff saying that they currently use EHR’s to support care delivery, but this falls to just 78% of clinicians in Wales.

Uptake of more innovative technologies such as AI and robotics is currently low. Fewer than one in 10 healthcare professionals currently use robotics (7%), virtual reality (3%) or artificial intelligence (3%).

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