The rapid adoption of digital care solutions during the Covid-19 pandemic “should not be abandoned”, a new report has found.

The government “must support” infrastructure needed to assist care providers in switching to technology-enabled care, according to the report from policy institute, Public Policy Projects (PPP).

The report, ‘Connecting services, transforming lives’, published in partnership with Tunstall Healthcare, addresses the need for continued use of telehealth in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic urging “momentum is maintained, helping to reduce strain on health and care services”.

It examined the progress of digital innovation in healthcare over the past five months with specific regard to telehealth, telecare, telemedicine and assistive technologies.

Key recommendations also include a call for a more “innovative” funding model to support long term savings; digital upskilling of the workforce to ensure “transformational benefits” of technology are realised; and greater support for the social care sector to become technologically enabled.

Stephen Dorrell, executive chair of PPP, said the better application of technology would deliver “significant benefits”.

“Most importantly in improving patient outcomes and service-user experiences, but also in reducing the strain on staff and carers, and potentially delivering cost savings or cost avoidance,” he said.

“The NHS doesn’t have an innovation problem; it has a replication problem: successful projects are rarely reproduced elsewhere in the system.

“This report highlights dozens of case studies in which TECS have been used very successfully and I hope it will encourage swift replication and adoption.”

The report identifies several barriers to the adopting and scaling of technology in the UK, including cultural challenges, funding, limited evidence, and complex regulatory frameworks.

“The health and care sectors are traditionally risk averse, and slow to adopt new technologies or ways of working. As a result, adoption and spread of new technologies can take a long time, with each locality insisting on its own pilot or proof of concept,” it states.

Sector fragmentations and timelines also result in a “lack of joined-up thinking when commissioning solutions”.

Gavin Bashar, managing director of Tunstall Healthcare, said: “The last decade has seen an exponential rise in the use of technology in the home, with smart speakers, heating and lighting systems now commonplace.

“And yet this increased adoption has not been mirrored in health and care provision. The NHS is still using fax machines, and domiciliary care workers continue to fill in paperwork in folders to record care visits.

“The current Covid-19 pandemic has starkly illustrated why this has to change. Technology connects people, it enables integrated care provision and empowers people to manage their own health and wellbeing. It must play a pivotal role in the way we remodel services in a post-Covid-19 world to create a true healthcare system.”

Key recommendations of the report:

  • The social care sector should receive greater support to truly become technologically enabled – the Government must ensure a minimum technology standard across providers.
  • More innovative finding models should be developed to support that support long term savings, rather than immediate cost dictating policy.
  • The rapid adoption of TECs during the pandemic should not be abandoned and should be built upon in the wake of Covid-19.
  • Digital upskilling of the health and care workforce should be a priority to ensure that transformational benefits of digital technology are realised.
  • NHS and third sector should collaborate to enable further independent living.
  • An evaluation of assessment methods must occur in order to assess the value of TECS and their impact.
  • Government must support the digital infrastructure to assist providers with switchovers to TEC platforms.
  • ICSs should drive integration through digital investment and support collaboration between all health providers.