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Health and care in Wales must take advantage of tech, says parliamentary report

The Welsh government must do more to gain the benefits of technology and innovation to deliver better and more effective care, according to a parliamentary review of the country’s health and care system

An independent review of health and care services in Wales has found that the country is in dire need of a system change, including better uptake and use of technologies.

The parliamentary review found that the current way health and care services are run in Wales is unsustainable, and that the government needs to focus on new models of care.

The report sets out a “quadruple aim” for the health service to improve health and wellbeing by focusing on prevention, improve quality of care, improve capability and engagement among staff, and increase the value achieved from funding.

Digital technology  is vital in enabling better quality of care and the Welsh NHS must “maximise the benefits of technology and innovation to pursue the quadruple aim and deliver more effective and efficient care”, the report said.

“We believe there is a revolution occurring due to the digitisation, accessibility and analysis of information about people’s health and care which will fundamentally change the relationship between professionals providing care and users,” the report said. “Building on its commitment in legislation to involve people, Wales must respond to this ‘customer/user revolution’ very actively or risk lagging behind other nations.”

One of the key aims is to keep people at home longer and avoid long and repeated hospital admissions. The report said this is one of the areas where technology can make a big difference, particularly in rural areas. It called on the Welsh government to review and assess how access to information and technology can help service users’ and citizens’ needs and preferences.

The report said the review should investigate to what extent the needs of the population “are currently being met, and new digitally enabled opportunities, particularly for remote areas; how health and care organisations are currently providing public access to integrated information regarding advice, support and care, including to support choices; and how new apps that help promote independence are identified, assessed, implemented and scaled up”.

Because of difficulties in recruiting staff in rural areas, the government should also look at how digital technologies can help bridge the gap, the report said. The NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) already runs several digital programmes to join up health and care records and services across the country.

“There is much to commend regarding the established core digital and infrastructure/shared services arrangements in Wales, not least the national architecture, cross-sector Welsh Community Care Information System (WCCIS), and shared service benefits from procurement, professional influence, e-learning and estate services,” the report said.

“Nevertheless, we heard a series of concerns and frustrations emanating from both the users and providers of the digital services. Simply put, activity is just too dispersed and stretched, and lacks overall commitment around a unified vision and set of priorities.

“The principal concerns include integration challenges (centred around the need for common standards, and data and systems interoperability), information governance, cultural and behavioural issues, and the limited capacity and capability to deliver change and innovation at pace.”

The report also called on the Welsh government, as well as all digital and infrastructure service delivery organisations across both health and care, to reassess their strategic priorities, increase collaboration and foster a culture with a joined- up approach.

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