Health apps will be key to NHS Information Strategy

The Department of Health is to put mobile apps at the heart of the NHS Information Strategy, says project chief Giles Wilmore.

The Department of Health (DoH) is to put mobile apps at the heart of the NHS Information Strategy, Giles Wilmore, senior responsible owner for the strategy, told Computer Weekly.

“We need to create an environment where we can harness technology, as more doctors and patients use smartphone apps,” he said at the department's event showcasing ideas for new and existing health smartphone apps. Wilmore said the strategy will also contain case studies of areas such as health apps.

Wilmore became senior responsible owner of the project following the departure of the department’s CIO Christine Connolly last year.

The Information Strategy was due to be released in October 2011, but was delayed following a listening exercise with Future Forums, a group of clinician, patient and voluntary representatives, who have been consulting on the strategy. 

Wilmore said the department would not take a top-down approach to stimulating the release of apps: "I’m really enthused about the number of ideas we have [at the event], which we need to encourage as much as possible. This is not something that could have been generated by the centre. We don’t want to run a big national procurement, but create something which harnesses the local dynamism and innovation.” 

He said opening up data would be key to stimulating innovation, with the department having recently made lung cancer data available, with plans to also release clinical audit data. “The agenda will be to routinely release data held at an aggregate level,” he said.

Speaking at the event, health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "So many people use apps every day to keep up with their friends, with the news, find out when the next bus will turn up or which train to catch. I want to make apps to track blood pressure, to find the nearest source of support when you need it and to get practical help in staying healthy the norm.

"Innovation and technology can revolutionise the health service, and we are looking at how the NHS can use these apps for the benefit of patients, including how GPs could offer them for free."

Interim NHS CIO Katie Davis told Computer Weekly last year that the Information Strategy would support the Department of Health in how it uses information across the healthcare system to deliver better patient outcomes.

The department said the strategy would give patients and clinicians access to meaningful and up-to-date information. “This will give patients more choice, control and responsibility over their health and clinicians the information to manage how they deliver local services,” it said. 

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