Digital Health: NHS Long Term Plan

The long-term plan of English National Health Service (NHS), published in December 2018, includes many references and an entire chapter devoted to the digital health, Let’s see the contents and relevant plans.

The fifth chapter of the plan is dedicated to the digitally-enabled cares, highlighting the progress reached in this field by the National Health System. NHS website has been revised and now includes high-quality contents and digital services for patients.

Citizens and health professionals can access over 70 apps that have been assessed and approved via the NHS Apps Library. WiFi is being installed across the NHS estate. The national roll-out of the NHS App has begun and will provide citizens with access to NHS 111 online, their GP record, the ability to book appointments, update data sharing preferences and register for organ donation, all from their computer or smartphone.

The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) is now used in 93% of England’s 7,300 GP practices, with more than 67% of their prescriptions delivered via EPS. This has improved patient experience and saved the NHS £136 million in the three years from 2013 to 2016. People can book hospital appointments online via the NHS e-Referral Service, which now covers every hospital and every GP practice, creating expected savings for the NHS in excess of £50 million a year.

Practical priorities will drive NHS digital transformation

  • Create straightforward digital access to NHS services, and help patients and their carers manage their health.
  • Ensure that clinicians can access and interact with patient records and care plans wherever they are.
  • Use decision support and artificial intelligence (AI) to help clinicians in applying best practice, eliminate unwarranted variation across the whole pathway of care, and support patients in managing their health and condition.
  • Use predictive techniques to support local health systems to plan care for populations.
  • Use intuitive tools to capture data as a by-product of care in ways that empower clinicians and reduce the administrative burden.
  • Protect patients’ privacy and give them control over their medical record.
  • Link clinical, genomic and other data to support the development of new treatments to improve the NHS, making data captured for care available for clinical research, and publish, as open data, aggregate metrics about NHS performance and services.
  • Ensure NHS systems and NHS data are secure through implementation of security, monitoring systems and staff education.
  • Mandate and rigorously enforce technology standards (as described in The Future of Healthcare) to ensure data is interoperable and accessible.
  • Encourage a world leading health IT industry in England with a supportive environment for software developers and innovators.

The chapter also details five development sectors: empowering people; supporting health and care professionals; supporting clinical care; improving population health; improving clinical efficiency and safety.

The plan emphasizes the importance of NHS app as online access channel to health system services. Among them, in 2019/20, 100,000 women will be able to access their maternity record digitally with coverage extended to the whole country by 2023/24. By 2023, the Summary Care Record functionality will be moved to the PHR held within the LHCR systems, which will be able to send reminders and alerts directly to the patient.

In the next 5 years every patient will access digitally to his/her clinician. The plan also foresees the adoption, by NHS, of decision support and AI systems to be valued as the medical technologies are.

It is out of doubt an ambitious project, coming from the past experience which saw the failure of national informatization program (NPfIT) launched in 2002 and closed in 2011. If you are interested in detail this aspect can link the report of the group who studied the case.

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