Recommendations include free wi-fi to support patient apps and 10% target for online services in GP practices
The NHS has to increase its emphasis on digital tools and skills and provide free wi-fi in hospitals, the leader of a commission on the issue has declared.
Baroness Lane Fox (pictured) has told the National Information Board that there should be an increase in take-up of internet enabled services in health and care, with doctors actively recommending the use of online tools such as apps for patients to manage their health, if they are proven to work.
She made four main recommendations, including the provision of free wi-fi in every NHS building to enable patients to self-monitor their conditions using apps, maintain contact with social networks and stay in touch with family and friends.
Lane Fox said it would reduce the administrative burden on hospital staff, and support safer working practices such as e-prescribing.
The other three recommendations are:
- Making sure those with the most health and social care needs, who are often the least likely to be online, are included first in any new digital tools being used across the NHS.
- Building the basic digital skills of the NHS workforce to ensure that everyone has the digital skills needed to support people’s health needs.
- At least 10% of registered patients in each GP practice should be using a digital service such as online appointment booking, repeat prescriptions and access to records by 2017.
The recommendations will now be considered by the National Information Board, but the announcement was accompanied by supportive words from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the board’s chair, Tim Kelsey.
“Digital health tools can dramatically improve people’s lives and wellbeing,” Kelsey said. “These bold challenges to the system to ensure that every person in the UK benefits are very welcome, and will galvanise work already underway to put power in the hands of patients, enabling them to take control of their care and improve their health.”
Hunt referred to a £1 billion investment in healthcare technology announced in the government’s recent Spending Review.
The call came days after Beverley Bryant, NHS England’s director of digital technology, told the Sustainable Healthcare Conference that organisations have to increase their use of digital technology to raise standards of care.
“It’s no good anymore to sit back and do nothing,” she said. “There is no point in putting technology into the hands of patients if, when they see their doctor, they get asked all their details over and over again. We are going to make this a priority and the NHS is waking up to it.
“Patient information needs to be transferred into social care settings so it is available when people leave hospital. It’s a hard slog, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s about transformational change and we need to do this for the benefit of our patients. We need to move to a paperless healthcare system.”
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0