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What do we mean by digital health and social care?
What do we mean by digital health and social care?

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3.1 Advantages of digital health and social care technology

Digital health and social care technologies have had an increasing impact since 2010, and from previous activities in this course you will see that in the UK, both nationally and locally, digital health technologies are now part of policy and strategy moving forward. The advantages of these technologies are wide-ranging and they can help to change and improve health and social care for service users, providers, people and professionals working in these sectors.

The next activity will encourage you to think about your experiences of digital health and social care technology and what advantages there might be.

Activity 4 Advantages of technology to you

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Video 3 The NHS at 70
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As well as providing the potential advantages of digital technology, Imison et al. (2016) also outline the benefits of delivering digital health and social care based on a research project which is outlined in Figure 4, which depicts a summary of the digital landscape, with the patient and service user at the centre of what is done in health and social care.

The figure provides an overview of the future digital health and care landscape. The patient or service user is at its centre, surrounded by the patient facing technologies that provide them with opportunities to manage their health and social care and engage with health care providers. These include: Patient level – Online communities, patient records and shared electronic records; Professional level – vital signs monitoring, decision support and e-prescribing, patient to professional telehealth, mobile working, professional to professional telehealth, shared electronic records and e-learning tools; Organisational level – patient flow management, e-rostering, predictive analytics/risk assessment, shared electronic records, workflows, patient outcomes monitoring and business process support. The electronic records are in a different colour as they straddle all levels of the system as a whole, reflecting the pivotal role it plays in any digital strategy. It is the foundation on which many of the other apps are built. Next are the technologies that provide tools for health and care professionals. These include decision support, the capacity to access other professionals’ expertise, tools to prioritise and manage their clinical workload and tools to identify those patients at greatest risk. Finally are the technologies that support organisations, including tools for business process support, predictive analytics, flow management and e-rostering, which give new resource and clinical management capabilities to health care providers.
Figure 4 The benefits of digital technologies for patients, professionals and organisations.

Think about some of the technology, both from the video and in Figure 4 above, and think about when and how you might come into contact with digital health and social care technology. This might be as a service user/patient, in your workplace, education or more widely.

What level is the technology you are thinking of at? Patient, professional or organisational?
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What type of technology is it?
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Does it have a positive or negative impact, and who is it impacting upon?
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Why do you think this? For example, did it make your experience better? Did it result in better quality of care?
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Now decide whether digital health and social care technology will have a positive or negative impact in the future.

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Discussion

You will have found that digital health and social care technology has a range of advantages for professionals, health and social care workers, patients, service users and services. Figure 5 summarises those from the Digital Health and Care Institute (2018).

This graphic depicts six circles leading out from a larger circle in the centre marked “Benefits of digital technology”; the smaller circles list some of these benefits as follows: reducing inefficiencies, improving access to services and support, reducing costs, improving quality of care, making health and social care person-centred, personalising care to the needs of patients and service users.
Figure 5 The benefits of digital technologies.