To be successful digital health technology must be accessible to all while still maintaining the human aspects of healthcare, a new report has said.

‘Digital Health during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Learning Lessons to Maintain Momentum’ draws on research and case studies of good practice in digital health during the pandemic.

The aim of the report is to offer policy recommendations to help ensure the UK capitalises on the potential of digital health to the benefit of patients, the NHS and the UK, after the crisis subsides.

The report, launched by the Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health, with support from patient organisations and the Royal Colleges of Nursing and Radiologists, highlights that uptake of digital health technologies has been limited, while patient experience of technologies including video conferencing and mobile apps has been mixed.

While patients strongly believe in the value of digital health, there are still significant concerns about using it, particularly around data collection and sharing.

In particular, the report recommends the government should:

  • Ensure digital policy reflects patient priorities
  • Involve patients in the policymaking process
  • Educate people about the value of digital health technology
  • Make digital health technology accessible to all
  • Ensure that regulations for the collection, sharing and use of patient data are clear and consistently applied

The report also includes recommendations for the NHS. They include:

  • Examine the public experience of digital health technology during the pandemic
  • Ensure patients have a choice
  • Give patients more time and control over their health and care
  • Reassure patients that their data is safe
  • Continue to strengthen and publicise digital assurance

A number of key organisations gave their support to the report. This included the likes of the British Heart Foundation, Patient Safety Learning and the Royal College of Nursing.

Rachel Power, chair of the Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health, said: “Over the past year, the health service has rapidly adapted to a difficult environment, including by embracing digital health technologies.

“While this has worked well for some, it has proven challenging for others and there are plenty of lessons to be learned as health services continue to evolve.

“We have an opportunity to build on this incredible momentum and leverage the value of digital health technologies to the benefit of patients and the NHS. Hopefully this report provides useful insights and recommendations to help support the ongoing process of digitisation and ensure that patient priorities and experience always lie at the heart of digital policy.”