New models of care could fail without GP IT investment, warns report

New models of GP care could struggle to survive without investment in electronic health records, telehealth and online access for patients to records and booking systems, an NHS-commissioned report into GP IT has found.

New approaches to care delivery and organisational design are essential to help GPs meet the challenges of a rise in more complex patient needs and tougher financial pressures, according to the Nuffield Trust report.

Available technology could play a ‘central role’ in supporting development of new models and transforming care, it adds – but barriers to enabling technology such as disengagement of staff and lack of dedicated funding risk holding back progress.

The think tank's report, commissioned by NHS England, makes a series of recommendations on how the sector can adopt digital technology to drive improvements.

Primary care technology

Enabling technologies could help create ‘permeable boundaries’ between primary, secondary and community care, supported by shared electronic health records and data and professional-to-professional telehealth.

The report recommends that three main technologies should be prioritised locally and nationally to instigate change.

These include shared electronic health records to facilitate co-ordinated care, telehealth solutions to improve patient access to services and professional access to specialist expertise and patient tools and resources to allow booking appointments and accessing records, information and advice online.

Gaps in IT infrastructure and capability need to be addressed through appropriate funding to allow this to take place.

The report says: ‘There is a long way to go before digital technology can improve the working lives of professionals and have an impact on patient outcomes. Much of the hard work needs to be addressed at a local or organisational level – such as overcoming resistance to new technology or lack of clinician engagement.

New models of care

‘We must not forget that primary care is in a transitional phase. The current transformation effort is being driven by pilots and short-term programmes, many of which will not prove sustainable in the long term. During this phase of rapid and potentially radical change, significant investment in infrastructure, software and training is needed.

‘In the longer term, when service models and their technologies are operating effectively and organisations are mature, the role of practice leaders and central organisations will change. They must reflect on what level of innovation is desirable and achievable on an on-going basis and what level of investment they are prepared to make in the long term.’

Read the Nuffield Trust report in full: Digital requirements for new primary care models

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