How can we make the digitisation of the NHS hAPPen?

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This is the fourth of six blog posts looking at innovative ways in which we can reform and improve healthcare in the United Kingdom.

When we think of healthcare in the United Kingdom, it would be a surprise if every citizen didn’t immediately think of the three words that have defined our approach to health for 70 years; National Health Service.

The NHS has unquestionably been the best solution when it comes to managing our citizens health from ‘cradle to grave’, but we must not become dogmatic on healthcare.

Whilst acknowledging the importance of such a service, we need to look at new innovative solutions to the constant stress around healthcare.

The NHS was founded in 1948, at that time there was limited sight of the technological age that we are living in now. It was a service that was for people and by people.

It relied heavily on the expertise of the individuals (humans) to keep the nation healthy, but in today’s globalised, technology driven society, it may be time for the power of technology to hold some of the burden of responsibility in the provision of support.

The technological boom that has occurred over the last decade or so has seen the rise of social media, mobile apps and even virtual reality. In our 21st century national health service we have yet to fully understand how technology could be useful to transform not only the health service, but people’s lives.

The health service is planning to release its first app in December 2018 which is a world-first and was unveiled under Jeremy Hunt, the former health and social care secretary. I commend this move which will allow the ability to make GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, manage long-term conditions and access 111 online for urgent medical queries.

It will allow people to state their preferences regarding organ donation, data sharing and end-of-life care.

Although these early drives towards the digitisation of the NHS are commendable, if we truly desire a 21st century health service we need to go further by creating a world-first digitised approach to healthcare.

The National Health Digital Innovation, Apps and Social Media Service

This approach would look to achieve the following:

  • Standards and regulation of health apps to meet and be prescribed on the NHS.

The NHS has already started a new drive with their app library online putting forward health apps which are useful in maintaining positive health and wellbeing. I believe we can go further and create an app directory for GPs which they could prescribe on the NHS. This idea would focus not only on prevention, but as part of a support package for people with early symptoms of illness.

The idea of digitising provision could reduce the numbers of people trying to access in house treatments. The apps would need to face a quicker and more efficient form of scrutiny as technology moves on so fast, but it would make it easier, more accessible and relatable to younger generations.

  • The creation of ‘NHS Social Media’ which would work with leading social media platforms in innovation, signposting and prevention online.

Social media has been the best outlet to get your message out there and that’s exactly why the NHS needs its own social media sphere.

Social media has its issues, with high numbers of young people experiencing heightened anxiety and depression, but how can we turn social media into something positive?

By creating a new team as part of this brand-new division within the NHS, we can work alongside social media companies in sending out positive messaging about health and wellbeing.

In addition, we can work with social media for signposting, if an individual themselves is worried about their health or individuals are worried about someone else’s health there would be an NHS button on all UK registered social media sites.

By pressing the link, it would lead to a pre-prepared email box in which you would send your digital health concerns directly to someone in the social media team. The social media team would then take the appropriate action which could include messaging the individual directly on social media (in serious situations), targeting the individual through support ads, or in other cases working alongside social media platforms to take down certain images or text.

In conclusion, digitalisation does not have to be a bad thing and can be used in a positive way to improve the health of our nation. By creating a new department within the sphere of the NHS we can modernise our health service and enable an advanced level of innovation, partnership and measurable success in the prevention of bad health.

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