The Policy Shift Required: Embracing Technology to Bridge the UK's Health Inequality Gap
By drawing on the power of technology, policymakers have the potential to reduce the UK's stark health inequalities and save lives.
Addressing the UK's health inequality crisis is a pressing issue. The gap in healthy life expectancy between the richest and poorest areas has now reached a shocking 19.3 years. Experts from the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the NHS, academia and industry came together for an online roundtable to find a holistic solution to the issue.
COVID-19 Exacerbates Health Inequalities
The expert group unanimously agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the UK's existing health inequalities. People facing greater socio-economic deprivation suffered disproportionately, leading to longer recovery times, extended lockdowns, and a strained economy and NHS.
Digital Technologies: A Catalyst for Change
There is huge potential for digital technology to ease health disparities and boost access to care. These technologies can widen access to public services, close gaps in healthcare access, and address social contributors to health. For example, early illness identification and personalised approaches can improve health outcomes for practitioners and patients. Dr Guy Gross, Interim COO at Go2 Healthcare said, "Digital health solutions democratise healthcare, offering everyone the opportunity to benefit from cutting-edge medical advancements."
Scaling Technology: Challenges and Solutions
Deploying new technologies comes with challenges, including reducing administrative burden and the size of the organisation. Long-term commitment is essential so that it is possible to connect examples of successful technology rollouts as access points for new technologies, and directing research funding towards projects that build on existing technology.
By learning from successful technology implementations and addressing barriers to change, we can create a more agile and innovative NHS, better equipped to meet diverse population needs.
Community Diagnostic Centres: A Model for Success
Community Diagnostic Centres are a shining example of successful healthcare technology implementation. These centres reach individuals without recent medical checks and help the NHS detect illness earlier by providing medical support near people's homes. A participant in the initiative explained, "Community Diagnostic Centres are game changers in our fight against health inequalities, ensuring early detection and intervention that can save lives."
A Call to Action: The Policy Shift Required
- Facilitate technological integration into healthcare, reducing bureaucratic barriers, and allocating resources for long-term projects.
- Engage experts and stakeholders to ensure they stay informed of technological advancements and their potential impact on healthcare access and equity.
- Support the expansion of successful initiatives, like Community Diagnostic Centres, to ensure these innovations reach people in need and contribute to reducing health inequalities.
- Create collaborative platforms between government, academia, industry, civil society, and the NHS to cultivate environments for innovative idea sharing and partnership formation to confront health inequalities.
- Promote public awareness and understanding of technology's role in addressing health inequalities, alongside the importance of early detection and personalised healthcare approaches.
Collaboratively we can make a tangible difference in millions of lives. The IET is ready to address policy challenges to build a healthier, more equitable future for all in the UK, harnessing the power of technology to transform healthcare and bridge the health inequality gap.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.