Fight for Sight welcomes report on digital health care in UK during the pandemic

05 February 21

written by:

Róisín Treacy

(more articles)

A person speaking to a doctor on an iPad.

Fight for Sight has welcomed a new report which recommends the UK build on progress made to digital health care during the pandemic to benefit patients and the NHS beyond the crisis.

The report, launched by the Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health with support from Fight for Sight and other leading charities and organisations, draws on research and case studies of good practice in digital health during the pandemic.

It supports the findings of Fight for Sight’s Time to Focus report, published last year, which recommends that health service commissioners and providers make services accessible locally or online, to minimise anxiety and disruption for people with sight loss, particularly people over 65.

According to the Coalition’s survey, patients want to retain the choice to use digital health technology, but not at the expense of their relationship with their clinician. The report makes several recommendations about best practices for the future of digital health, including the need for digital health technology to be accessible to all – particularly as approximately 20% of the population lack basic digital skills or do not use digital technology at all.

The report highlights that uptake of digital health technologies has been limited and patient experience of technologies including video conferencing and mobile apps has been mixed. It found that while patients strongly believe in the value of digital health, there are still significant concerns about using it, particularly around data collection and sharing.

Chief Executive of Fight for Sight, Sherine Krause, said: “We are so pleased to have been able to represent the needs of sight loss patients and their experience of accessing vital treatment and services during the pandemic. We know from our Time to Focus report that almost three in four people’s access to treatment got worse during the pandemic and over half experienced more difficulty accessing care. Ophthalmology accounts for the highest number of outpatients of any medical specialty in the NHS and prior to Covid-19 it was already under pressure with an existing backlog of patients. Digital health technology has an important part to play in helping to relieve some of the strain that the NHS is under, while at the same time improving patient care. However, it’s vital that this is done with the patients’ needs in mind, so the findings and recommendations of the Patient Coalition’s report are hugely welcomed.”

Chair of the Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health, Rachel Power, said: “Over the past year, the health service has rapidly adapted to a difficult environment, including by embracing digital health technologies. While this has worked well for some, it has proven challenging for others and there are plenty of lessons to be learned as health services continue to evolve. We have an opportunity to build on this incredible momentum and leverage the value of digital health technologies to the benefit of patients and the NHS. Hopefully this report provides useful insights and recommendations to help support the ongoing process of digitisation and ensure that patient priorities and experience always lie at the heart of digital policy.”

The report by the Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health can be accessed here.

Read our Time to Focus report