Digital Medicine, AI and robotics forms key part of Topol Review

The Topol Review is being launched today outlining a vision of a digital future for the NHS using the latest technologies across the themes of genomics, digital medicine, and AI and robotics.

The Digital Medicine and AI and robotics panels who contributed to the report made recommendations that include:

  • Planning and investment in skills to make the workforce more digitally literate; any NHS online content should be a trusted resource;
  • Patients should be worked with when it comes to research and development programmes;
  • An increase in the number of clinician, scientologist, technologist and knowledge specialist posts with the opportunity of working in partnership with academia, and/or the health tech industry to design, implement and use digital, AI and robotics technologies.

Led by California-based cardiologist, geneticist, and digital medicine expert Dr Eric Topol, The Topol Review is an independent review commissioned by the health and social care secretary and produced by Health Education England (HEE).

It was commissioned by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt to establish how the NHS workforce should use new technologies going forward. The report follows the publication of the NHS Long-Term plan last month, with the executive summary of the Topol Report suggesting that within 20 years, 90% of NHS will require some element of digital skills.

The focus was on how the workforce can use existing and new technologies in a bid to make the service more efficient and allow healthcare professionals to spend more time treating their patients.

As outlined in the interim report, the report is guided by the principles of: including the patients as partners and informing them about health technologies; a workforce that has expertise and guidance to evaluate new technologies and; adoption of new technologies should enable more staff to care.

Dr Eric Topol said: “Over the next twenty years three changes will inevitably happen: more and more people will have their genome sequenced; patients will generate and interpret much more of their own health data at home; and the speed, accuracy and scalability of medical data interpretation from artificial intelligence will grow exponentially.

“These developments will change patients’ lives, change how clinicians work and change how healthcare services are delivered. This is happening now and the NHS is ideally placed to take it further, faster and wider if we act to give our staff the skills and knowledge they need to make them the norm across the NHS.”

Telemedicine, smartphone apps, sensors and wearables for diagnostics and remote monitoring, automated image interpretation using AI, interventional and rehabilitative robotics are all among the top 10 digital healthcare technologies that are projected to impact on the NHS workforce from 2020 to 2040.

A vast amount of the recommendations from the advisory boards relate to safeguarding patient data as well as being accessible for clinicians, and giving staff the required training in order for the workforce to be equipped to deal with new technologies.

As part of its recommendations, The Organisational Development Board of the report recommended that the NHS should support collaborations between the service and industry to improve the workforce’s skillset, and to work with other stakeholders to review regulation and compliance requirements for new digital healthcare technologies.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “Technology must be there to enhance and support clinicians. It has the potential to make working lives easier for dedicated NHS staff and free them up to use their medical expertise and do what they do best: care for patients.

“Technology will make the NHS the best in the world and I want everyone who works in the health and care system to be empowered to embrace it – from porters to pathologists, surgeons to social care workers.”




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