UK: Can Digital Technology Transform The Delivery And Financial Sustainability Of Healthcare?

Last Updated: 11 November 2016
Article by Karen Taylor

The digital revolution, has completely transformed how we access, collect and transmit information. In the last decade the 'internet of things' and the increasing capacity and capability of smartphones, tablets and more recently wearables, have had a profound impact on society as a whole. Changing consumer expectations, behaviours and demand. In response, businesses are constantly adapting and innovating from contactless and online banking services to smart energy meters and now the 'connected homes'. Our report in 2015 Connected Health: how digital technology is transforming health and social care and our more recent research for our report Vital signs: how to deliver better healthcare across Europe suggests that healthcare may in fact be at a tipping point in its digital revolution.

Digital health technology

A key requirement for the adoption of digital health technology is in being able to harness the power of connectivity, so that healthcare (or aspects thereof) can be monitored and managed remotely, in real time. The wide proliferation of health apps (165,000 and counting) has changed the digital health landscape, albeit only a small percentage are currently used at scale (for example the top ten pharma apps generate 66 per cent of downloads)i. The focus of many of these health apps wearables has largely been on helping people to improve their own health and well-being, but increasingly are apps and bio-sensing wearables are now being used to monitor changes in health vital signs. This is enabling users and clinicians to better monitor and treat conditions. However, despite clear consensus from most stakeholders that such technologies have significant potential to support patient self-care and reduce the demand on healthcare systems, their use has still not been mainstreamed. A key reason is often the lack of clinician and patient involvement in design, but also concerns about data privacy and security.ii

NHS support for digital initiatives to help people manage their own heath

Earlier this year, the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) programme, which supports developers with tried-and-tested innovations, revealed that more than three million patients had begun tapping into new apps, safety devices, on-line networks, and a stream of other new technologies and services during the year of operation in 2015-16. Examples of innovations supported by the scheme, which have now been given the green light with regard to being routinely commissioned by the NHS, include:

  • MyCOPD - an app which allows patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder to self-manage their condition on their phone or tablet
  • AliveCor - a mobile heart monitor that instantly captures electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings, allowing the user to detect, monitor and manage heart arrhythmias

The idea of a more virtual healthcare service is gaining traction across the UK, for example, the Chief Executive of NHS England has indicated publicly that virtual healthcare has a strong future in the UK, and in August 2016 announced a new Ł100 million funding pot to aid selected NHS trusts in becoming centres of global digital excellence (CODE). This announcement of funding support for these CODE institutions follows other recent pronouncements by NHS England stating that technology which enables patients to manage their own health is the key to improving care, promoting efficiency and cutting costs throughout the NHS.iii

Overcoming the financial barrier to adoption of innovation within the NHS

NHS England has recently announced that a new Innovation and Technology tariff category will be introduced into the NHS aimed at removing the need for multiple local price negotiations, by guaranteeing automatic reimbursement when an approved innovation is used. The idea is that this will allow NHS England to negotiate national 'bulk buy' price discounts on behalf of hospitals, GPs and patients. A move designed to accelerate uptake of new med-tech devices and apps for patients with diabetes, heart conditions, asthma, sleep disorders, and other health conditions,(e.g. pregnancy). Developers of med tech devices and apps from around the world have been invited to join the new Innovation and Technology tariff, which provides a clear "route to market" for innovations.iv

This new innovation diffusion funding mechanism is consistent with the policy direction recommended in the Department of Health's recently published Accelerated Access Review.v Seen as a blueprint for national action in setting out the important practical steps to support a systems-based approach to a whole life sciences ecosystem, improving uptake of innovations. We will continue to monitor the extent to which it helps overcome the barriers we have previously identified:

  • stakeholders and organisations are not aligned with the explicit goal of working together to bring innovations more reliably and rapidly to patients
  • many incentives in the current system are counterproductive for the adoption of innovation data and evidence is not being used as an effective enabler
  • cultural barriers such as risk aversion and mistrust between NHS and

The opportunities for digital health technology to help deliver better healthcare across Europe

Health systems in Europe are diverse, the result of history, culture and the economic and political environment in which they operate. Understanding what makes an effective healthcare system is therefore quite challenging, as discussed in the above mentioned report Vital signs: how to deliver better healthcare across Europe.vii

These challenges are both similar to all countries and familiar to all health stakeholders, from unrelenting demand pressures, due to increases in the size and ageing of the population to growing public expectations for more personalised and convenient services. Other challenges include the increasing costs of providing healthcare, driven by the availability of new technology, innovative medical equipment and pharmaceutical interventions and a desire to provide high-quality care, equitable access and optimal outcomes within an affordable, and sustainable, cost envelope.

What differs is how each country approaches these challenges, what they are prepared to pay and what they are prepared to trade off or prioritise. Our report examines health system performance through the lens of seven 'Vital Signs', identifying what good care might look like, highlighting key performance metrics, a patient portrait and examples of good practice for each vital sign. It also suggests a number of key enablers to help transform healthcare services, grouped under three headings, systems and processes, workforce and technology.

The seven vital signs cover: Prevention and health promotion; Primary care today and tomorrow; Productivity in hospitals; Palliative and end-of-life care; Patient engagement and empowerment; Population health management; and Partnerships between industry, providers and academia. While no country has yet developed the perfect healthcare system, we believe that addressing the seven 'Vital Signs' will, over time, through wider adoption of the key enablers, should help all countries to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness; reduce health inequalities and address variation in healthcare performance both between and within countries.viii










The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions