With 1 million patients now using the NHS every 36 hours, the pressure is firmly on the nation’s healthcare system to cope with an increased, ageing population, more complex medical conditions being treated, increased waiting time for treatment and more ingenious medicine which is keeping people alive for longer. Tie that to Brexit and the drive for a 7 day service against today’s staffing pressures and you can see a perfect storm brewing.
Enter then, Health Minister Jeremy Hunt and reflect on his 5 Year Forward View for the NHS. Published in 2015, he laid out his vision for a gradual but persistent transition to patient power – in which digital technology would play a central role. This was expanded on with his appointment of digital guru Martha Lane Fox to identify four key changes to map out a digital NHS for everyone. Her stated targets included the following:
o To reach the furthest first and leave nobody behind
o To provide free WiFi for all throughout the NHS
o To build the skills of NHS staff to support people’s needs in the digital age
o To boost take up of online GP services
So it’s exciting three years on to hear good news coming from NHS Digital’s Leeds HQ. Their latest figures show patient registration take up for secure GP online services in England has risen sharply. Nearly 14 million patients are now going to their GP’s online for a variety of NHS services without the need to visit a surgery or phoning the practice. These include:
• Booking appointments
• Ordering repeat prescriptions
• Patients view their own records
The figure of 14 million patients is up 42% on February 2017 and amounts to a total of 24% of patients in England now being registered.
For the GP surgeries in local communities who have taken the plunge to embrace technology and overcome initial reservations in parts, these digital pioneers are now reaping the benefits from a variety of online GP cloud service providers. The results are significant time savings for both the staff and practice GPs, fewer ‘no shows’ and improved patient awareness as patients become more knowledgeable about long term conditions. The net benefit is derived because GPS have integrated the online public service with single source information clinical systems like EMIS and SystmOne.
There will always rightly need to be a hawkish attitude around protecting sensitive data, however if these new online systems are well governed and securely managed, the public that take up this offer can enjoy a degree of ownership of their healthcare data in intelligent partnership with their GPs and healthcare providers – and in so doing, feel good too they are contributing to improving NHS service efficiencies in the 21st Century.