Jakub JirsÃ¡k - stock.adobe.com
The NHS has published a report with the findings of the three-month pilot of its flagship app, along with details on how it used the insights to test and improve the user experience of the tool.
The research refers to the NHS App trials carried out between September and December 2018 with more than 3,000 patients.
The app was used mostly for viewing medical records, according to the report. Ordering repeat prescriptions was rated the most useful service available on the tool and it was also the most popular activity on the NHS app, with 662 orders placed during the trial.
Booking appointments was also among the most used features. Figures from the report show that during the trial, 3,193 patients had registered to use the app, but only 337 used it to book appointments, with 106 subsequently cancelled.
The report states that a new feature will soon be introduced to the repeat prescription ordering service, which will allow patients to choose which pharmacy they wish to collect their prescription from and set this choice within the app.
While the tool is easy to navigate, the findings revealed that two-factor authentication with a code received via SMS was an annoyance to users. The NHS responded to feedback by enabling Apple and Android users to use biometric login using fingerprint or facial recognition.
Online appointment availability also didn’t meet expectations during the trial. The NHS pointed out that while GP practices currently choose the amount and type of appointments that are available online, the GP contract five-year framework published in January states that at least 25% of appointments must be available online by July 2019.
On medical record access, the NHS pointed out that some trial participants expected the record to include more of their medical history, such as information dating back further or their test results.
According to the health service, this issue will be addressed by the new GP framework, which states all patients will have online access to their full record and add their own medical data from April 2020.
When it comes to findings from GP practice staff during the trial, the report notes that briefings and support were provided, as well as access to an online toolkit to help prepare systems and staff so they can promote the app. However, running the practice and other priorities caused delays.
Many practices need clearer guidance and templates on how to use and promote the app to patients, the report said. As a response, the NHS has included more support materials in its toolkit as well as webinars to help staff get accustomed to the app.
Another key finding from the report is that the tool encouraged use of online services uptake, as 64% of people who used the NHS App never registered for an online service connecting to their GP practice.
SMS messaging was found to be an effective method of promoting uptake of the app, with 20% of the patients who received a link promoting the tool clicking on the link to get more information.
The NHS App aims to provide a digital front door to the health service in England. It will be fully integrated into the four major GP IT systems used in England, and will be available to any patient over the age of 13 who is registered with a GP.
According to NHS England, most GP practices will go live with the app between April and June, and it expects the app to be fully rolled out by 1 July 2019.
Read more about NHS IT
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- The NHS Long-Term Plan aims to empower people through the use of technology and create a digital-first NHS, offering virtual outpatient appointments, digital GP consultations and improved cyber security.
- More ambition and a mindset change is required to attract more technology talent to the NHS.