Read the recommendations from this review.

Using digital education to embed a digital culture

The role of digital technology continues to evolve in health and care provision, as it will in education too. Digital culture is a workplace influenced and shaped by digital technologies. Embedding a digital vision, values, and the behaviours required to drive further innovation, address and improve digital literacy earlier, and better prepare the future workforce before they enter work will be critical.

To embed a digitally enabled culture which supports and prepares learners for the future world of digital working and providing care, a digital vision, strategy, competency framework(s) and assessment approaches should be in place. A digital vision will outline the ways in which technology will aid and enrich learning, a strategy will set out the ambitions and steps to achieve this, and a framework will provide clarity to staff and students alike on the skills and capabilities required to support this. Assessment and evaluation methodologies for students, staff and the technology itself will help to ensure approaches to technology build on past lessons, deliver intended outcomes, add value and remain fit for the future.

Creating an effective digital education strategy

A focused strategy, shaped by key stakeholder groups, subject matter experts and digital, education and clinical innovators will provide important foundations and conditions for digital innovation and advancement to evolve and systemically embed into health and care education.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
  • Should formalise their approach to digitally enabled health and care education through the creation of a digital education strategy. This will ensure health and care education is digitally fit for the future, and actively involve students, staff, healthcare professionals and digital innovators in its formation.
  • Where not done so already, should introduce digital competency framework(s) for both staff and students, to reduce variance in competency and capability and clarify digital literacy expectations and behaviours, with agreed vehicles for assessment (such as through the appraisal process). NHS England has a Health and Care Digital Capabilities Framework which can be used for reference.
  • Should ensure any strategy considers the impact on inclusion and learner experience when incorporating digital technologies, including completion of an equality impact assessment to ensure people are not unfairly impacted.
  • Should adopt a vigorous review and evaluation process when introducing or embedding blended learning methodologies to ensure the quality of learning and outcomes are robustly maintained.
  • Should develop faculty to be able to deliver technology enabled education.
  • Should include principles of technology as an enabler in health and care provision into curricula. This will support students to understand the reasons behind using these technologies and the advantages they offer for improving patient care.
  • Should carefully consider the suitability of digital technologies for intended outcomes during procurement through a consistent and robust assessment process; including assessing its value for money, quality, required infrastructure and future viability. Regular quality assurance reviews should be incorporated to quantify benefits and identify any required adjustments.
  • Should agree evaluation requirements and methods as part of digital education strategy to ensure expected objectives, benefits and outcomes are realised.
NHS England
  • Should work closely with HEIs and Provider Organisations and carry out further, longitudinal research into the impact, implications and outcomes of using digital technology to simulate clinical practice. As these advancements are still relatively new, data should be collected and collated longer term to understand the full impact of learning through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and how this is translating into the world of work.
  • Should create Digital Equality Impact Assessment templates and guidance, which specifically consider the equality and inclusion impacts of digital technology for organisations to apply and review in their own settings.
  • Should support HEIs and Provider Organisations to complete a Technology Enhanced Learning Readiness Assessment of Maturity and support them to address any areas of need.
  • Should invest in central resources to support faculty development and provide regional opportunities for HEIs and Provider Organisations to engage with Technology Enhanced Learning resources.
Regulators and professional bodies
  • Should explicitly outline the requirement for digital health education and digital skills development in regulatory and professional standards.
  • Provide flexibility in regulatory and professional standards to facilitate the use of digital technologies in the education and training of the health and care workforce – especially in practice learning.
Membership councils
  • Should support members in developing their digital strategies and delivery by contributing to evidence, developing guidance and resources, and facilitating the spread of good practice.

Collaboration, sharing best practice and peer to peer learning

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Provider Organisations
  • Should consider novel ways to foster innovation and develop opportunities for peer to peer learning, such as innovation cafes, digital mentors, workshops or practice events.
  • Should encourage inter-disciplinary learning more formally, for example engineering, computer science or technology students working with health and care students on a group assignment to solve scenarios using digital options.
NHS England
  • Should create opportunities for digital innovators and individuals passionate about the future of digitally enabled health and care education to meaningfully come together and share ideas and best practice; aiming to better enhance innovation, advancement and systemic problem solving.
  • Should continue to invest in digital innovation and share learning and outputs from projects more widely and formally to support broader system development.

Developing the digital skills and literacy across undergraduate clinical education

As highlighted by a report conducted by Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), rapid progress has been made in improving the digital capabilities and skills of students and staff but as our research suggests, more needs to be done to improve overall digital literacy and ensure competency and capability matches the pace of digital innovation within the NHS.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
  • Should introduce pre-assessment and ongoing assessment approaches for digital competency, capability and readiness as part of the student pathway to determine overall skills levels and requirement of needs, including any level of digital poverty.
  • Should adopt a scaffold approach to improve overall digital literacy for staff and students, ensuring foundational levels of digital literacy are developed before introducing more ambitious, novel or complex skills, such as virtual simulation and artificial intelligence.
  • Should carry out training needs analysis to better understand the gap between the skills and competencies required and whether the development of these skills is supported through current digital training provision. Training provision should offer a range of opportunities to suit different learning preferences and abilities.
Provider Organisations
  • Should develop and enhance digital training through the means of workshops, video tutorials or “how to guides” to support students in understanding and using digital technology while on placement.
  • Should give students on placements access and opportunities to use and become familiar with any digital technologies pertinent to their learning on placement (particularly clinical technologies such as Electronic Patient Records).
  • Should offer students protected time during placement where they can undertake uninterrupted self-managed learning on new digital platforms and software. However, an element of supervision should be incorporated into their self-study time to ensure that students are getting the best experience and are able to learn through good mentorship.
NHS England
  • Should develop good practice principles for using clinical technology (such as election health records (EHRs)), to deepen student’s understanding of clinical systems. This means although differing systems are used at local levels, students can still build adequate knowledge of database management and understanding of good practice

Improving your organisation’s digital infrastructure and specialist resources

Ensuring infrastructure enables the delivery of high-quality experiences and learning will remain fundamental, as well as ensuring technologies remain viable and fit for purpose. Focused digital specialist or expert roles and developmental support should wrap round the learner and the educator when introducing and using digital technologies.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Provider Organisations
  • Should ensure that reliable access to the appropriate equipment and connectivity for students and staff engaged in blended learning exist. For example, loaning laptops and iPads to every student during their course to ensure equal access but also confirming equipment is supplied to students (for example, a work laptop, phone) prior to them starting placement.
  • Should consider enhancing their digital-specific workforce, including volunteer champions to support with digitally enabled education for health and care students.
NHS England
  • Should invest in the development of innovation champion resources and tools in collaboration with Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) to support staff regionally to incorporate the use and teaching of digital technology across health and care undergraduate education.

Page last reviewed: 10 May 2023
Next review due: 10 May 2024