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Two-thirds of UK adults think the NHS should be using more technology to increase efficiency and improving the patient experience, according to research.
A survey by end-to-end service provider Trustmarque and research firm YouGov found the NHS is not currently on track to reach its target of providing all UK adults with access to electronic patient records by the end of 2015.
Electronic patient records
By the end of April 2015, 95% of UK citizens were able to access their electronic health records either online or in their GP’s office, with the number increasing to 97% by May 2015.
But many of those asked did not know whether or not they had electronic access to their medical records, and only 4% claimed they knew how to access their health records online.
“The NHS is under constant pressure to reduce costs while, at the same time, ensuring clinical excellence. There is no doubt technology can play a significant role in meeting these objectives,” said Angelo Di Ventura, director at Trustmarque.
“Implementing and managing the technology that underpins the transformation of the NHS is no simple task. Data should be available in different formats, for different users, in different locations.
“However, many NHS systems have not been set up for this type of access, preventing health professionals from accessing the information they want, when they need it,” he said.
The NHS is also undergoing digital transformation, with health secretary Jeremy Hunt vowing the NHS will be paperless by 2018.
This increase in paperless initiatives should force healthcare providers to reduce redundant processes, as well as increase interoperability between different healthcare providers, such as GPs, hospitals and emergency services.
The survey results also highlighted the need for interoperability between healthcare systems, with 28% of people saying they or someone they knew had received delayed care due to lack of information sharing between healthcare professionals.
Almost 40% said they had to provide healthcare professionals with the same information more than once over the past year.
The most popular suggested use of technology for the NHS was for appointment management, with 22% stating they still received appointment reminders by post.
Virtual consultations were also high on the list, with 50% of people stating they would like to have a video appointment online and 72% saying they would like to use digital channels to communicate with healthcare professionals outside of scheduled appointments.
Mobile, Wi-Fi and wearables
Only one in 10 people used a mobile application to help with health monitoring, but 76% thought the NHS should provide health applications or offer a list of NHS-approved apps for monitoring health, allowing users to fully utilise technologies such as Apple’s HealthKit or fitness trackers.
A majority of those surveyed also believed embracing wearables would improve patient care, with half suggesting they would be ideal for monitoring elderly or vulnerable patients and almost 40% saying wearables would help to monitor a patient’s diet and exercise.
The NHS is aiming to provide free Wi-Fi to all patients and increase patient monitoring technologies by the end of 2020. It estimates better use of technology and data could save the organisation a third of the £22bn budget deficit predicted for the health service in five years’ time.
It has been widely discussed how the ageing population will require a different breed of preventative – rather than reactive – healthcare, which could be assisted by wearable monitoring.
Electronics equipment maker Philips recently paired with Salesforce to develop a support platform for internet-connected devices to support healthcare professionals when using them in the future. This should lead to fewer people in hospitals by enabling patients to be remotely assessed and care to be prioritised.