U.K.'s NHS commits $6B to digital health, making remote care a priority

The U.K.'s National Health Service hasn't exactly earned high marks so far for its efforts on the digital health front. Its prior efforts to convert to electronic medical records have failed. But the health program is redoubling its efforts now by committing £4.2 billion ($6 billion) to a variety of digital health initiatives. That news comes on the heels of the agency announcing a series of 7 med tech-focused trials with major technology partners including Alphabet's ($GOOG) Verily, Royal Philips ($PHG) and Accenture ($ACN).

U.K. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

The new investment was announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Among other priorities, it's slated to include £1.8 billion ($2.6 billion) to create a paper-free NHS, another £1 billion ($1.4 billion) on cyber security and privacy, £750 million ($1.1 billion) on updating remote care, £400 million ($575 million) to digitize the NHS, integrate apps and telehealth and £250 million ($360 million) on data for outcomes research.

"The NHS has the opportunity to become a world leader in introducing new technology--which means better patient outcomes and a revolution in healthcare at home," Hunt reportedly said. "On the back of a strong economy, and because of our belief in the NHS and its values, we are investing more than £4 billion across the health system to ease pressure on the frontline and create stronger partnerships between doctor and patient."

All told, the initiative is slated to enable the NHS to save £22 billion ($31.6 billion) by trimming waste and improving productivity. As part of the process, there is an ongoing review of the NHS IT systems in an effort to create a paper-free healthcare system by 2020. The review started last year and it scheduled to report back to the government in June.

Other goals include remote, at-home management of one-quarter of patients with chronic and long-term conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer by 2020 and at least 10% of patients accessing physician services online and via medical apps by March 2017.

"The NHS is one of the world's largest health and healthcare systems, and one of its largest employers. It's essential that information technology across the NHS works well and can perform the tasks needed to deliver high quality, safe and efficient care," IT expert Professor Bob Wachter, who is conducting the review, said in a statement. "I am looking forward to finding out about some of the great work taking place across the NHS and highlighting areas for improvement."

- here is the announcement of the IT review
- and coverage from the BBC, The Register and The Daily Mail