A new report from the Health Foundation suggests that further work is needed to assess and develop health technology approaches before they are implemented in the NHS following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, Securing a positive health care technology legacy from COVID-19, notes that the NHS has had to increasingly adopt technology to reduce face-to-face contact and meet demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has also accelerated the uptake of newer technologies and platforms, the Health Foundation report found.

In a survey of 4,326 UK adults, the Health Foundation identified that around 39% of respondents had either ‘received NHS care for any health condition’ or that they (or their carer) had ‘communicated with the NHS about their health’ since the first lockdown started at the end of March 2020.

Nearly all of this group – 97% – reported that they had used technology to receive this care.

The survey also found that around three-fifths of NHS users in the early phase of the pandemic used technology in a new way or more than before. Of this group, 83% reported positive experiences.

Among NHS staff included in the survey, 78% of those whose organisation had increased the use of technology reported positive experiences, which increased to 88% for those who’d been directly involved.

However, compared to traditional models of care, technology approaches made for worse quality of care for 42% of these NHS users and 33% of these NHS staff.

In particular, for people who used technology more during the first phase of the pandemic, 50% of those aged 55 years and older and 46% of those with a carer said technology enabled approaches made for worse quality of care.

"The forthcoming Spending Review will need to address long-term workforce and infrastructure needs for the NHS to exploit new and established technologies successfully, including through further increases to capital spending," commented Tim Horton, associate director of improvement at the Health Foundation

“Innovations in digital care achieved during the pandemic have expedited opportunities to now embed a blended approach of both face-to-face and digital options where relevant in accessing care,” said Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation.

“This mix should be designed to best support patients to access care in ways that are right for them, and reflect the need for access to inclusive and appropriate services for everyone who needs them,” she added.