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Digital clinical safety matters. In an increasingly digital health care environment, it matters for patient privacy, patient care and the patient experience.

With the publication of our strategy in September 2021 we aimed to be clear about the importance of digital clinical safety and to show that it is everyone’s responsibility. So how does this translate to health care improvement?

What does digital clinical safety mean for quality improvement?

‘Digital clinical safety’ refers to the avoidance of harm to patients and staff as a result of technologies manufactured, implemented and used in the health service.

The strategy looks not only at how we ensure the safety of new technologies but at how we can use technology to improve patient safety.

So, anyone looking to improve patient safety and the quality of the patient experience must also be considering digital clinical safety across the lifecycles of digital systems. It is part of a culture of patient safety that improvers are deeply familiar with – learning from best practice and speaking up about emerging risks.

But there’s another side to the strategy that looks not only at how we ensure the safety of new technologies but at how we can use technology to improve patient safety. COVID-19 has accelerated the use of digital technologies in health and care, with huge increases in the use of online consultation systems and digital prescriptions, just to name two. Shared care records and remote monitoring are also being used widely. So how do we identify which technologies are best for improving patient safety and how can we solidify the evidence base for them?

Building the evidence for improvement technologies

Much of what we know about the use of technology to improve patient safety and the patient experience is ad hoc, confined to individual health care settings, or without a robust evidence base. We know there have been lots of in-house innovations over the last few years and we want to gather and share information about them in a way that’s helpful for policymakers and people working on the ground.

There have been lots of in-house innovations over the last few years and we want to gather and share information about them.

One of the five national commitments in the Digital Clinical Safety Strategy is to generate evidence for how digital technologies can be best applied to patient safety challenges. We’re creating blueprints, drawing on real examples, to show how the best of them are set up and provide evidence for implementing these technologies more widely. Read the first two of these on the NHS Futures website (you’ll need an account to access them):

Developing a Digital Clinical Safety Officer Team
Digital Clinical Safety-Nursing Approach.

What next for the strategy and how do I get involved?

As the strategy moves into a phase of delivery, the national Digital Clinical Safety Team have commissioned a stakeholder consultation to better understand how they can support implementation of the five national commitments across the health and care system. The five national commitments are:

  1. Collect information about digital clinical safety, including from the Learn from patient safety events (LFPSE) service and use it to improve system-wide learning.
  2. Develop new digital clinical safety training materials and expand access to training across the health and care workforce.
  3. Create a centralised source of digital clinical safety information, including optimised standards, guidelines and best practice blueprints.
  4. Accelerate the adoption of digital technologies to record and track implanted medical devices through the Medical Devices Safety Programme.
  5. Generate evidence for how digital technologies can be best applied to patient safety challenges. If you have any questions about this discovery phase, or would like to be involved in future consultations, please contact nhsxdigitalsafety@nhsx.nhs.uk who will be able to offer further details.

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