Information technologies: Future trends

This content relates to the following topics:

Part of Time to Think Differently

Here we take a look at trends affecting the future of information technologies and their wider use in health care. New models of care enabled by these technologies, such as telecare, are covered in our medical advances pages.

Key messages

  • Our use of the internet continues to grow
    Four out of five people in the UK can currently access the internet at home, and three out of ten use a smart phone to do so. It is expected that by 2032 everyone will have access to the internet.
  • Computing power and data is increasing exponentially
    The increase in computing power, new devices, sensors, and screens combined with improving access to ever-expanding quantities of data will support the shift to what is known as 'ubiquitous computing'. In health and social care there will be new opportunities to capture, relay and interpret vital signs and other health information, both in the home and in other care settings.
  • Social media will grow rapidly in importance
    The impact of social media on health and social care can be expected to grow, particularly alongside increased public availability of information. Patients and doctors are already using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to post medical problems and seek help finding diagnoses.
  • The rise of the app
    Apps have a wide array of uses in health and social care, including providing information about conditions and supporting self-diagnosis.
  • Changing the relationships between professionals and service users
    Information technology is changing the way in which professionals manage and make use of their knowledge. This is likely to drive changes in the relationship between professionals, and between professionals and service users.  

Key uncertainties

  • The impact of new technologies on care and care workers
    New technologies have the potential to make care more efficient and personalised, and to help generate and share knowledge to improve outcomes for patients.  However, they could also make care-givers more remote, and reduce efficiency through data overload. The overall impact of new technologies on care and care workers over the next 20 years is not clear. 
  • Society’s view of data and data security
    The public generally supports the use of personal data to support research, but most people want to be able opt out of digital health records if they choose to. It is uncertain what the public's view of personal data sharing will be in the future.
  • Future growth in internet traffic
    The past ten years has seen exponential growth in internet traffic, and some forecast this growth continuing. However, there are a number of trends challenging this, including big IT companies building digital territories where they set their own rules or limit connections to other parts of the internet.

Next page: Use of the internet