Half of over-55s feel quality of NHS care worse using technology, poll suggests

Older people have signalled concerns about using technology to access NHS services from home, with half aged 55 and over reporting that the quality of care is worse, according to a YouGov poll.

The country was forced to embrace new systems in a bid to reduce face-to-face contact during the pandemic, with greater use of video consultations, online appointment bookings and remote monitoring.

A survey for the Health Foundation charity of more than 4,000 adults suggests that the majority (83%) have had a positive experience from the digital shift.

But when asked to compare these technology-enabled approaches to traditional methods, 42% said it made for worse quality of care, highlighting the need for innovations to be developed and improved before the Government pushes ahead with new tools.

A white paper by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published in February states that the response to Covid-19 “has shown us new ways to deliver care using innovative and creative solutions, exploiting the potential of digital and data, instead of needless bureaucracy” and that “we must not go back to the old ways of working”.

Nearly half of those with a carer (46%) – groups that may have higher need for health services – also thought technology-enabled approaches had a negative impact on the quality of care.

A further 1,413 NHS staff members were surveyed and shared a similar response, with almost nine in 10 (87%) saying increased use of technology had brought about some positive experiences, but 33% believe it has also made for worse quality of care.

NHS workers highlighted that IT systems and equipment must be adequate, safe and work for all types of patients.

“Given the immense pressure the NHS has been under, it is impressive that so many patients and staff reported positive experiences as new technologies were rolled out,” said Tim Horton, assistant director of improvement at the Health Foundation.

“However, the fast pace at which they were introduced means that important steps – such as evaluation and co-design with patients – will necessarily have been shortcut.

“As we emerge from the shadow of the pandemic, the NHS must evaluate and improve these approaches before locking them in for the future.

“The NHS has not yet ‘sealed the deal’ with the public on the future use of technology and further work is needed to address concerns and build trust in new technologies.

“While the speed of innovation has been hugely impressive, rushing to make these changes permanent without understanding more about their impact would risk holding back promising technologies from fulfilling their potential to improve care for every patient.

“Action is needed by the NHS and Government, who have a critical opportunity to secure a positive health care technology legacy from Covid-19.”

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