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COVID-19: Technology, research and innovation

The RCP submitted evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry

In our evidence we explore how the NHS needs to make better use of digital technology and data to improve services for patients. We have been encouraged by more innovative use of data and technology that COVID-19 has precipitated. The pandemic has meant rapid and long overdue changes to outpatient services and more joined up access to patient records. These changes now need to be embedded, but in a way that directly addresses the challenges the move to “digital first” presents in terms of the risk of widening health inequalities and clinicians being able to deliver the best care.

To ensure positive changes are embedded in the long term, the RCP recommends:

1. Resetting outpatient services to be “digital first”, subject to a rigorous evaluation process to establish the best approach to implementation. This would see remote care offered as the first choice unless the clinical issue or patient access requires a face-to-face interaction.

2. Extending the Control of Patient Information (COPI) notice to make better use of data to deliver more integrated care.

As part of a longer term plan to transform patient services through better use of data, it will also be imperative to prioritise:

3. Embedding genomic medicine in the NHS through investment in workforce education and capacity.