Government bodies should review the digital transformation of social care to create a “roadmap” for providers to identify which technology they need to deploy, according to a new report.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHSX and Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government were called to work with industry leaders to establish a commission which would audit the social care sector, with an aim to better support digital transformation and integration across the health and care sector.

The recommendation forms part of TechUK’s Ten Point Plan for Healthtech to ensure digital technology is at the forefront of improving outcomes and transforming how care is delivered.

According to TechUK, the UKs technology trade association, social care has been “unduly seen as the poor relation of the NHS” and has been a “policy no man’s land” with attempts to find sustainable models often proving unsuccessful.

The sector has a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to build on the good work undertaken in response to the pandemic, which has seen the greatest digital transformation and most sustainable opportunities for technology, the report found.

“An audit of the social care system, including a review of the levers available to policy makers, will help to make clear who is responsible for the digital transformation of the social care system, and critically, what the various options are to achieve this,” it recommended.

“With clear leadership on social care established, policy makers can work to define a ‘target architecture’ that will help to scale solutions and provide guidance to the providers of care on what is possible, how they can achieve it and where it has been previously done.”

Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) will also play an “increasingly important” role in integrating social care with the NHS and utilising “vast pools of rich data that are currently untapped”.

Wider health and care

The report also sets out recommendations for wider health and care, with the aim of developing a “world-class digital health and care service that empowers patients, staff, and citizens, fostering true innovation”.

Julian David, techUK chief executive said: “The past year has highlighted the essential role that digital health technology can play in supporting the NHS and care sector to deliver better outcomes for patients.

“Building on recent successes, this paper distils several complex challenges and issues that the health and social care sector faces into ten logical and, importantly, achievable recommendations.

“The health of the population is the highest priority and this document offers an essential roadmap for working in partnership with the system to improve the delivery of care across the board.”

Recommendations include developing world-class digital health and care standards, led by NHSX; improving people’s access to their own data; centrally mandating, assessing and enforcing interoperability standards, led by DHSC through NHSX and NHS Digital; and streamlining the procurement of digital technology based on outcomes.

The role of ICSs should also be enshrined in law to make it easier for suppliers to engage with the system, the report added.

To achieve this a “targeted and dedicated” investment model for digital technology should be established.

Victoria Betton, vice chair of the techUK health and social care council, added: “With input from a wide range of industry experts, this paper goes a long way to cast an examining eye on the longstanding challenges that have held back health care for years.

“Throughout, it highlights the importance of a highly-trained and digitally-empowered workforce, a well-informed public and improved procurement practices across the system.

“Policymakers, technologists, clinicians and innovators should consider these recommendations and look, both at a local and national level, to understand how to support their implementation.”

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