Monday 22 April 2019
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NHS tech less advanced than Tesco’s, warns Hancock

NHS tech less advanced than Tesco’s, warns Hancock

2 months ago

NHS tech less advanced than Tesco’s, warns Hancock

2 months ago


Supermarket chain Tesco has more advanced technology than the NHS, the Health Secretary has said.

Matt Hancock said it is essential that the health service embraces new technology to deliver better performance and help save lives.

Speaking at the launch of a major report on preparing the health workforce for a digital future, he called for improvements in the way patient data is shared and used.

“Right now, Tesco has a more sophisticated and more efficient technological system than the NHS,” he said.

“They know who you are through loyalty cards, where you shop, through store IDs, what you buy, the items scanned at the checkout.

“That wealth of information means they run their operations with just-in-time deliveries, and they shape their offers with a personalised service in order to deliver for you, the customer.

“And they are delivering groceries. The NHS doesn’t have anything like that yet.”

US academic Dr Eric Topol led the review (Kirsty O’Connor/ PA)
US academic Dr Eric Topol led the review (Kirsty O’Connor/ PA)

In contrast, he said, the NHS does not know which hospitals patients have visited or which medicines they have been given in the past.

“We don’t even know what we already know,” Mr Hancock said.

“And if Tesco can do this with groceries, by God we need to do it for the life-saving operations of the NHS.”

The independent review into the pending technological health revolution, led by US academic Eric Topol, was launched on Monday.

It suggests that robots, artificial intelligence, and sensors will unburden doctors and give them more time with patients.

Smart speakers, such as Siri and Alexa, were also envisioned as having a “major impact” on care.

The report suggests they could even be used with a “mental health triage bot” that engages in conversations while analysing text and voice for suicidal ideas and emotion.

Rapid advances will also be spurred on by developments in the ability to sequence individuals’ genomes, the entirety of their genetic data, according to the review.

Dr Topol said technology will allow patients to have an active role in their care, keeping track of their own health and measuring vitals such as blood pressure to help doctors.

“Today we manage people in healthcare on one-off data in a contrived setting when they come to an office or a hospital,” Dr Topol told reporters on Monday.

“And this is now taking that data from their real-world experience, often continuous or very high frequency sampling, and that’s a whole different way to understand an individual and to provide better support and management.”

Dr Topol also called for fresh education of staff in preparation for the changes, with 90% of NHS jobs predicted to require digital skills within 20 years.

The technological advances may mean healthcare professionals such as nurses and pharmacists have to “step up”, with doctors left to deal with the most complex conditions, Dr Topol said.

Officials believe this could lead to less steep growth in demand for additional doctors.

“The non-physician workforce is going to have a great enabling function over time,” Dr Topol said.


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