The NHS's future is at risk if it does not take advantage of patients' digital data to improve healthcare services and save money, according to the national director for patients and information at NHS England, Tim Kelsey.
Kelsey made the claim at the launch of a report by Volterra and EMC - Sustaining Universal Healthcare: Making Better Use of Information - that claimed digital information and data analytics could save the NHS between £16.5bn and £66bn per year.
As such Kelsey said that with funding on the NHS being squeezed all the time - a shortfall of £34bn is predicted by 2020 - the ability for technology to improve healthcare and save money must be embraced.
"2015/16 will be the most difficult spending round ever for the NHS. It could be the year we run out of money," said Kelsey at an event attended by V3.
"We have a very fragmented healthcare environment, we have some very significant financial pressures and, I think, an unstoppable tide of public appetite to make more sense of digital information."
Kelsey noted currently the NHS is not doing enough to become a digital organisation with only two percent of people having "engaged digitally with the NHS" despite 76 percent of the UK population routinely using the internet.
"These two interesting statistics hint that we have to embrace this future or we are very seriously going to not only be left behind, but put the NHS in real jeopardy," he explained.
To achieve a digital revolution in the NHS, Kelsey said a robust digital infrastructure is needed in hospitals, citing an example of providing ambulance teams with access to appropriate data so that they are better prepared when arriving to the scene of an accident.
"We have to transform the data infrastructure in our country," he declared.
As such, the previously postponed Care.data initiative, which aims to create a database of people's medical records, will play a key part in enabling the use of data in healthcare, Kelsey said.
"The simple act of sharing data is the most important contribution our generation has made to healthcare."
While Care.data was originally halted due to concerns that not enough had be done to raise awareness of its existence, Kelsey is positive that future use of patients' digital data will be well received.
He cited the 30 million unique monthly users the NHS Choices website receives as an example of people being more willing to access their health records in digital formats.
The recent positive reaction from the three major political parties to a manifesto put forward by TechUK, highlights how technology is high on the government's agenda.
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