DoH seeks patient self-monitoring IT to aid NHS savings

Technology that enables patients to monitor their own conditions could help the NHS meet part of its £20bn cost-savings programme, said the Department of Health's CIO.

Technology that enables patients to monitor their own conditions could help the NHS meet part of its £20bn cost-savings programme, said the Department of Health's CIO.

Speaking at the government's Healthcare Technology conference, Christine Connelly said patients need 21st century technology to help them to make informed health choices.

"We want to provide information for patients to take control of their health and experiences inside the [NHS], which means doing things for themselves, if that's what they want to do," she said.

It was a message echoed by leading IT decision-makers in the NHS at the conference.

Steve Peacock, head of commercial services at Commissioning Support for London, said home-based technology could save the NHS £50m by reducing hospital admissions, call-outs and patients with repeat problems.

"We haven't given people enough control over their own health and treatment. We need to give people the information, ability and tools to do the right thing for themselves," he said.

Charles Gutteridge, national clinical director for informatics at the Department of Health, said access to health information is currently too hard, jargon-ridden and fails to reach people in their homes.

The challenge to software developers now is to create applications that can overcome these issues, he added.

Connelly said that in order to deliver efficiency savings of around £20bn in the next five years every unit within the NHS needs to operate effectively and efficiently.

"We expect to see patients in control of changing services in terms of feedback. I want patients to make more informed choices," she said.

However, Jonathan Edwards, research vice-president at Gartner, was sceptical about how systems enabling patients to monitor their own conditions at home would work in practice.

"I don't see anything concrete coming out of the government to make that happen at the moment. For things like telemedicine to work you need a certain critical mass of people using applications and a clear idea of which organisations are going to reap the cost savings," he said.

Fragmentation within the sector would also make a move toward self-monitoring difficult to implement, he said.

"To work it needs a tight relationship between the commissioners and providers of care. But as part of the changes in the NHS IT programme involve devolving power and responsibility down to local level, along with the abolition of Primary Care Trusts, it is questionable where the alignment and incentives [for self-monitoring] will come from."

A senior IT leader in a London-based NHS trust said the conference lacked detail about how IT cost-savings would be implemented in practical terms.

"There was a lot of blue sky thinking but no specific details. We'll probably get a better picture after the spending review," she said.

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