Technology has the potential to improve health and care outcomes but there are several “barriers” preventing its adoption, a new report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report has found.

The CQC’s annual state of care report suggested technology would bring “great benefits” but warned digital-enabled care should not be implemented as a “blanket solution” to prevent certain groups of people being “left out”.

“For all its possibilities, we have found some barriers in the way of adopting new technology. Our staff have highlighted that cost can be one, as can be the knowledge and attitudes of staff towards technology,” the report said.

“We have seen staff who have been sceptical of new technologies, for example, because of the poor performance of previous systems. The perceived complexity of adopting new technologies can also be a barrier.

“Our staff have highlighted concerns about the ability of existing IT infrastructures to support new technologies, and whether different systems could ‘talk’ effectively to one another between different organisations.”

Issues surrounding data sharing and the ethics of information sharing can also hamper to uptake of technology, the CQC found.

The independent regulator encouraged health and social care providers to “consider technology in the broader strategic sense, as an enabler of high-quality care”.

Peter Wyman, chair of the CQC, said: “This report points to examples that show how providers are working together more effectively – often using technology to help – to ensure that people get the care they need when they need it.

“But their efforts must be supported by Parliament, commissioners and national and local leaders in order to deliver real change in how and where people are cared for, and how they are supported to stay well.”

Reducing inequality

The use of tools including apps, tablets and assistive technology were having a positive impact on peoples lives but it’s vital the solutions work for all patients, the report found.

Research from Healthwatch England suggests there is broader support for technological solutions for accessing health and care services.

Technology, including apps and online treatments, also have the potential to empower people to manage their mental health, charity Rethink Mental Illness told the CQC.

But technology isn’t the right solution for every patient.

“It is important to make sure that certain groups, such as older people or people with a learning disability, are not excluded from the roll-out of digital solutions and tech-enabled care,” the report said.

“It is important for providers to take individual differences into account and involve the people who use their services in designing any systems.

“It is also vital that technology should enhance, rather than replace, human support.”

Digital solutions in primary care

Provision of online appointments has been the most “significant” change the CQC has seen through its regulatory work, the report said.

In May 2019, 0.5% of NHS GP appointments were delivered online.

There’s also been an increase in the use of digital health monitoring, including apps to measure blood pressure, blood sugar levels, weight and heart rates.

But the adoption of technology isn’t consistent across primary care providers, the report found. Improving information sharing was identified as a priority.

Issues including clinicians being unable to access a patient’s medical records and history due ineffective sharing between healthcare services need to be addressed, it said.

Responding to the report Graham Kendall, director of the Digital Healthcare Council, which represents eight digital providers, said: “Digital care, working hand-in-hand with face-to-face provision, is an increasingly important part of solving access to care.

“Digital consultations can take the pressure off hard pressed emergency departments that are too often left to fill the gaps, especially when access to local high-quality general practice is limited.

“We strongly support the CQC’s call to ensure the benefits of technology are widely adopted. The single most important way to address these inequalities is to make sure everyone can benefit from the full range of digital services, regardless of their personal circumstances or where they live.”