Business Development Director UK&I
How Can We Empower People To Stay Out Of Hospital?
With around 11 million hits a week, the NHS Choices website has proved that people turn to official online resources when they, or someone they look after, are unwell
For day-to-day interactions, we increasingly expect to use our mobile phones – and that’s certainly true of digital natives. With the need to manage demand and shift from treating illness towards looking after wellbeing, there’s huge scope for a ‘My NHS’ icon on my phone to empower me to stay healthy.
Empowerment starts with having the right support, tools and information to hand. Many people already use Google to find information on staying healthy or get an answer when they have a symptom. The problem is, that information is often on an unregulated website or app. With hundreds of new apps being released each week, self-monitoring and improvement is
a growing trend. The wearables market is exploding; people are happily monitoring their calorie intake, exercise and blood pressure and gathering that data via apps. At the same time, the NHS is investing in telehealth and remote support. So it’s worth, then, exploring whether there is a way to flip these resources and services on their head through more pervasive NHS tools that empower citizens day to day.
For the citizen, there’s the real challenge of knowing what apps are out there and which ones are safe. So how can the spread of uncertified, unregulated online resources be controlled? It’s in everyone’s interest to bring good apps to market, so this is not so much about controlling as filtering. Citizens need more information about sources of help, but only when appropriate and relevant. None of us wants to be bombarded.
‘My NHS’ core app
Thankfully, technology can enable us to make sense of all the information and get a personalised service. A ‘My NHS’ core app, for example, would be a way of signposting relevant certified services and other apps based on an individual’s life circumstances and profile. Other industries such as retail already do this. So, for example, local hospital apps, condition specific support apps and ways to facilitate the patient journey such as transport, parking and retail apps could all be suggested to an individual patient. This would also help drive the creative development community to continue inventing new apps that are certified and ‘ruggedised’. Citizens could make their own choices on which apps to use.
An NHS ‘ecosystem’ of services, advice, support and resources, all channelled through one simple enduring device could support citizens, as well as carers, family and friends of people who would not naturally access an app themselves. It could also be a powerful tool for people working for the NHS. Every time someone starts at a new location, they could be served up apps for their new role, way-finder apps, health and safety apps, loyalty apps, organisation chart apps and, most importantly, medically focused apps linking them into internal systems.
The potential benefits
Just look at the adoption of Facebook: if you give people a ‘pane of glass’, then they’ll populate it. There are, of course, good reasons why this type of social network is more challenging for a system like the NHS. But the world is changing fast, and the Internet of Things is another step change. With citizens connected, monitored and potentially prescribed medicines machine to machine, many of these extraordinary opportunities and transformations will be driven by new apps.
Data from my fitbit could be stored and linked to my own medical records. I could use the app to pay for the pictures of my baby’s scan at the hospital or gain access to an NHS building with an eID. I could use ‘My NHS’ to store notes and information about my history, take a photo of my symptoms or the medicines I use and share these securely with my GP online. I could make or cancel an appointment – even take an appointment slot at very short notice because I’m in the area. I could have a button to press to contact the NHS (via video, voice, instant message or social media) and be instantly triaged and referred to someone who can help me. The possibilities are almost endless – especially with machine learning, payment mechanisms, eID and medical records built in. At the very least, better targeted, more timely and richer interactions will enhance health and wellbeing and prevent problems and avoid costs further down the line.
Joining the dots
The future of healthcare has to be about creating a more personalised, empowering and predictive healthcare system – and specifically, more remote monitoring of people in their own homes. There is now a major opportunity to join the dots between what already exists to give people a single ‘My NHS’ icon for life. We can harness what’s already out there, acknowledging what people now want from digital tools and making it part of the fabric of our everyday lives.