Boehringer-backed digital health academy set for launch in UK

Solving the elective care conundrum through digital innovation

An online training academy that aims to raise the digital skills of NHS health and care workers is due to open its virtual doors next March, according to the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA).

The Digital Health Academy – developed with pharma company Boehringer Ingelheim – is part of a drive to get digital health tools and apps used more routinely in the management of health conditions, according to ORCHA.

The target is to actively engage with over 50,000 NHS workers from across the UK in the academy's first year, and to improve the skills of all health and care professionals (HCPs) by 2031.

It comes after a difficult period during the pandemic in which the NHS has had to find innovative ways to connect with patients, and which has also exposed a digital skills gap among HCPs, it added.

ORCHA says that while 93% HCPs believe that apps and other digital health tools can improve patients' health, they often do not have the skills or knowledge to put this motivation into practice.

A survey carried out by the organisation found that 86% of digital tool developers felt HCPs did not have the resources and confidence to access, use and recommend digital healthcare technologies to patients. More than third (37%) of those polled were also HCPs themselves.

In addition, 70% of respondents said the reluctance of HCPs to recommend digital health technologies was one of the top four factors restricting patient use and access.

Boehringer's UK & Ireland chief executive Uday Bose said that the company backed the initiative because "supporting the healthcare and healthcare workforce is a priority at this critical time."

The academy "is a unique and much-needed resource that will enable primary and secondary care professionals to be confident in all things digital, keeping pace with a fast-changing and increasingly technology-focused healthcare environment," he added.

The courses on offer through the academy will be on two levels. A foundation level will cover an overview of digital health, covering topics like standards and safety measures, patient centricity, and how to integrate digital tools into the clinic.

For HCPs who which to delve deeper, it will offer specialist level courses that will allow them to learn more about digital health in their own specific specialty, such as cancer, respiratory, cardiology, diabetes, rare diseases, women and men's health, and mental health.

The courses – which will be delivered in an on-demand video format designed to slot into HCP's busy schedules – have been developed in partnership with NHS clinicians, universities, and digital health experts at ORCHA.