Jeremy Hunt announced his 25 year vision for the NHS to the Commons on Wednesday. His speech sets the stage for an NHS that embraces digital health technology. “With 40,000 health apps now on iTunes, these innovations are coming sooner than most people realise. The future is here.” Whilst it’s great to hear the NHS is finally waking up to the fact digital health is the way forward there are still huge barriers getting in the way of widespread adoption. If the NHS is to truly embrace digital health, they need to fundamentally think about how they incentivise Commissioners and Providers. Whilst we’ve seen the benefits of what digital health can bring for patients, with Activity not Outcomes driving Rewards and Payments, it seems there’s still some thinking to be done.
Embracing technology is more important than ever as the Health Secretary backs 7 day GP care. “We need to make sure we have a flexible system for 7 day working, making use of technology.” Doctors are already working extremely hard, and an even further stretched NHS will require game changing innovation. Digital health solutions can remarkably increase capacity by reducing routine visits. For instance, traditional care delivery requires those patients at risk of stroke, who take warfarin, to attend around 14 routine appointments a year to test their INR. An INR digital health solution allows patients to self-test from the convenience of their own home whilst being remotely supervised by their health professional. Implementing this across the NHS to all appropriate long-term conditions could be the way forward in alleviating pressures on a workforce due to be operating 7 days a week.
Hunt also emphasised how patients must become the most powerful group in the system. Empowering patients with the freedom and flexibility to manage their own health enables patients to gain a deeper understanding of their condition, and initiates an inquisitive learning culture. This is a huge benefit of digital health and could be the route to true patient-centred care. “Intelligence transparency creates intelligent patients, with healthy outcomes,” suggests Hunt. With information at the heart of digital health, healthcare delivery could be transformed to enable a fundamental shift in power. So much so, Hunt believes “the transition to patient power will dominate healthcare for the next 25 years.”
“We can choose whether we want the NHS to be a leader of the pack, turning heads across the globe, or a laggard who is struggling to embrace innovation adopted elsewhere.” Indeed we have a long way to go until the NHS fully embraces the use of today’s digital technologies. However a drastic change in health culture is clear on Hunt’s agenda and that can only be positive.