Could new technology transform NHS Wales?
How could the NHS look in another 30 years time? Will new technology and medical advances transform how we're looked after?
We asked nine different corners of the health service - and the health secretary - what innovations we might see.
Royal College of Surgeons
Innovations that were unthinkable only a few decades or years ago are now common practice. Advances in medicine and technology, such as robot-assisted surgery and artificial intelligence, will have a significant impact on the delivery of surgical care in the future. The RCS recently set up a commission on the future of surgery to gaze into the next 20 years. It will report in the autumn about the impact of new advances in medicine and technology.
Royal College of GPs
Technology will offer real opportunities. That could be large scale projects like patients being able to access their full medical records via an app or helping them to take ownership of their health. Or it could be smaller scale initiatives, for example something as simple as being able to send an out-of-hours clinician a picture of a rash to help with diagnosis (something that already happens in some parts of Wales). Technology could also transform our idea of what access looks like. For example the role of video consultations will need consideration. These opportunities will need to be managed - and led by what is best for the patient.
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Consultations may increasingly be made over the internet. New medications may allow us to reduce the recent rise in allergies. Treatments that are based on our individual genetic make-up may yield benefits with greater efficacy and reduced side effects. If we are able to make infants and children healthier this sets the pattern for life - what an incredible challenge we face.
Royal College of Nursing
We've got a lot of catching up to do. I use tech in my every day working - but the NHS is so behind in the sharing of data. Tech is advancing but not the means to record and share data. Something as simple as sharing notes to know what other practitioners are dealing with - it is so vital, and we are so behind.
Royal College of Physicians
We will need to find ways to reduce hospital attendances and improve patient care in the community. Use of modern electronic information and communication systems are crucial. There needs to be political recognition that service reconfiguration may not save money in the short term; indeed, the transition process will require investment.
Health boards should embrace innovation that enhances communication with patients and between healthcare professionals as this improves quality of care and the patient experience.
People increasingly expect to interact with health services using personal technology such as smart phones and tablets; where appropriate, patients and clinicians should be able to use tele-health and telemedicine in everyday practice, particularly in rural areas.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society Wales
Automated dispensing systems or robots have been introduced in many hospitals and community pharmacies to support safe dispensing of large quantities of routinely used medicines. These technologies are beneficial as they support a reduction in dispensing errors, rationalisation of the dispensing process, and increased efficiencies in dispensary throughput and turnaround times.
New technologies are also being developed to improve the outcomes from taking medicines by personalising the very medicine that a patient takes: Using DNA and genomic technology for a completely tailored approach to healthcare. We are fully supportive of new technology but we believe that automated solutions should always be used to compliment the skills and experience of healthcare professionals, and not as a substitute.
Academy of Medical Royal Colleges Wales
- More rapid and reliable tests and investigations
- More medical interventions will be less invasive and more targeted - through surgery and drugs leading to fewer side effects and less harm
- IT will allow remote monitoring - from home and in clinics outside hospital
- Better data collection and we will be able to access data more easily
- Individual patient data - people will be able to carry a credit card type system that contains all of their own data
- Genomics - these predict risk to individual patients at greater level. The disadvantage to all of this is that as people become more in touch with their own bodies, they might become more obsessed about health and more worried about unimportant fluctuations. But having more informed patients is a good thing - and will lead to better discussion with clinicians
We must be wary that people from disadvantaged parts of society don't become more isolated and abandoned. These changes are welcome but we need to develop the relationship between clinicians and citizens as equal partners to ensure we use the technology in the most effective manner.
Royal College of Occupational Therapists
New technology offers a world of opportunity for future health and social care - from Skype consultations, to apps for tracking health data - even to robots. The possibilities are endless.
What we must be careful of though is technology for technology's sake. Tech-enabled care still has to be person-centric and focus on what the person wants from care, as much as what they need. This is a real opportunity for our profession in the future. Effective use of technology requires expertise to ensure the correct technology is used for patient needs and wants - to help them live their lives how they want and manage illness and health problems effectively.
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Royal College of Midwives
Developments such as electronic records could make the journey through our NHS easier for patients, by for example reducing replication of information giving. Perhaps also making sure that we use existing technology appropriately. Any technology should support health professionals and the NHS to operate more effectively and efficiently and ultimately bring greater benefit to the people the NHS cares for. New technologies should mean joined up systems for data and record collection that reduces duplication, such as an all-Wales IT system.
Jennifer Dickson, chief executive of the Health Foundation
There will be a lot more work to reach out to people in their every day lives, through their smart phones for example, to help support themselves. How many people were wearing fit-bits 40 years ago? Wearable technology can help them in things like healthy eating and so on.
Vaughan Gething, Health Secretary
It's hard to predict completely how the NHS will look and be run in 30 years time. When you think about artificial intelligence, what we'll be able to do in genetic medicine, there are lots of opportunities. It will undoubtedly look different in a number of respects but what I think will be the same though is that it will be a public service with public service values.
For all of the significant advances we can make, lots of services will [still] require people to be present to deliver care - but working in different ways and across different teams.