22nd January 2013
Follow the patient
By Matt Jameson Evans, co-founder of HealthUnlocked, the biggest and fastest growing online health platform in Europe
Jeremy Hunt’s recent speech to Policy Exchange on digital health asks the NHS to move on from the legacy of the abandoned £12 billion NHS IT programme of the noughties. He’s right: securing the best health for the nation depends on making the right choices about technology now. Shying away from those decisions is the the institutional equivalent of medical malpractice.
He says the key nettle to grasp is getting existing NHS systems to speak to each other, making NHS performance and results more transparent, and giving patients online access to their record.
Turning this around as soon as possible can’t wait - the doctor or nurse who reviews you without notes (lost? in storage?) knows only too well the feeling of being 20 years behind on technology. And if your illness demands multiple hospital visits where one hospital has little or no idea what has been going on in the other the consequences can be much worse.
But it’s not only about redesigning the existing healthcare model in line with transactional industries like personal banking or travel. The NHS needs to prepare staff with the digital skills to confidently take advantage. It can also tap the emerging world of digital health that is blossoming organically around the needs of patients.
Our experience at HealthUnlocked is that the reality of being a patient is changing fast. Almost 500,000 patients a month are visiting, sharing information and collaborating on a fast-growing resource of over a million searchable health experiences. Some are also updating their doctor on how they are doing following treatment. 94% of them say being on the network is either useful or life-changing. And should they need a digital patient record to share secure information between hospitals they can already use Patientsknowbest - another home grown technology putting the patient bang in the centre of healthcare.
If a digital NHS can truly put patients at the centre of information and decisions our nation’s health can be radically improved. Even beyond appointments, prescriptions and records it’s about transforming day-to-day lives. And because the web is already allowing patients to take this step forward it would be lovely to have the NHS on board!