Impact of innovation: Summary

A summary of our work looking at the future impact of innovation on paediatrics.

What our members said….

We asked 290 members “In 2040, what do you think will be the biggest innovation that has changed practice in your field?”. The top themes were new models of care, technology, and personalised medicine.

What our dedicated innovation and technology research says…

Innovation is not simply the development of new ideas; it also involves being able to successfully spread things that work. COVID-19 has unmasked the latent potential of a number of technologies that needed a platform to implement them at scale.

The ability to host clinics and meetings remotely has existed for years, we just haven’t adopted it. However, in response to COVID-19, reconfiguring whole health systems to respond to different demands has truly required some innovative thinking. Sometimes this has been to the disadvantage of children and young people who have had to be side-lined due to the need to create significant capacity to care for adults. This inequity in innovation and for children is not a new thing though.

Children and young people are often an afterthought in development and delivery of innovation. In order to realise the potential for technologies in 2040 the landscape of research and development needs to change to support paediatrics. This will involve giving paediatricians more time to spend on innovation activity and adjusting governance frameworks so unnecessary barriers are removed.

We’ve learnt a lot in this working group about the relatively scant amount of evidence that specifically exists around new technologies for children and young people – we conducted a literature review, looking at the impact of technology on the delivery of paediatric care in the last ten years. However, the review did identify six useful themes for successful technology development in paediatrics:

1. Clear guidelines

An emerging theme from many studies was the need for clear guidelines or protocols when introducing new technologies in health settings. This includes ensuring protocols are context or country specific as health policies will differ depending on location. Many care providers expressed the need to have more training on using innovations, whether face-to-face or online. Not all healthcare providers will be “digitally literate”, and so when implementing new innovations training and clear guidelines are necessary.

2. Continuity of care

Children and young people expressly prefer consistent care from the same clinician or community/paediatric team, and to not have to repeat themselves if they are referred to another professional. Where this isn’t possible as a child moves along a care pathway, clear protocols and pathways that are specific to children and young people will support continuity between professionals and services.

3. Confidentiality

Privacy and confidentiality are raised in many of the studies we looked at, with concerns around data sharing through technology bringing increased risk of confidentiality being lost. Ensuring these are addressed given the necessary utilisation of some digital approaches will be critical.

4. Digital poverty

Child poverty is at an all-time high in the UK. Many young people to don’t have access to a stable internet connection or appropriate device for getting medical support. This needs to be considered in the implementation of all new technology to ensure that underserved populations will not be further isolated.

5. Personalised care

Interventions that take a more personalised approach or include their target population in the development of the intervention often report more positive findings. This was also observed in studies that adapted innovations to suit the language or cultural needs of their target population.

A common theme in exit survey feedback was to make interventions more tailored. This included specifically targeting younger populations as separate from older adolescents and/or adults. The same theme emerged in separate survey work conducted through RCPCH with both paediatricians and children and young people calling for more tailored healthcare.

6. Technology to supplement, not replace

Participants (both care providers and care recipients) often state a preference for interventions that used a blended approach. Patients report they find it more comfortable and easier to engage with a clinician at in-person appointments.

In our research, providers found that using technology prior to meeting with patients allowed for more specific discussions. A blended approach was preferred when providing teaching or training for clinicians, to improve adherence to the intervention and provide familiarity with other participants when engaging in peer learning.

This theme reinforces the importance of implementing a personalised approach to delivering paediatric care, as participants will have individual preferences about how they receive it.

Top three messages

Innovation is not simply the development of new ideas, it also involves being able to successfully spread things that work. COVID19 has unmasked the latent potential of a number of technologies that needed a burning platform to implement them at scale.

Children and young people are often an afterthought in development and delivery of innovation. There needs to be a much greater focus on co-production.

In order to realise the potential for technologies in 2040 the landscape of research and development needs to change to support paediatrics. This will involve giving paediatricians more time to spend on innovation activity and adjusting governance frameworks so unnecessary barriers are removed.

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