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COVID-19 and Digital Transformation

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The director of international relations at NHS Confederation, Dr Layla McCay writes about significant acceleration of digital transformation across the UK.

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ is an old proverb proving true as health services across the world race to adapt to manage the challenges of the current coronavirus pandemic. Despite the significant pressures on services across the NHS associated with our COVID-19 response, and indeed because of them, there has been a significant acceleration of digital transformation across many areas of health in the UK. Digital innovation that might have once taken months or years to be adopted has been integrated into practice in days or weeks as people see and meet the need of the moment.

For instance, the coronavirus response has made clear the value of online and video-consultations in primary care, and we have seen a remarkable expansion of digital platforms. In the space of weeks, primary care services in the UK have switched from 1.2 million face-to-face consultations a day to the majority being carried out remotely. According to a 12 April BBC report, GPs are now seeing just seven in every 100 patients face-to-face. Similar progress has been made in secondary care, with widespread moves towards digital-first outpatient appointments and some hospitals supplying iPads to enable loved ones to ‘visit’ their relatives who have been hospitalised with coronavirus, without risk of infection.

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