Health Data

Digital Health offers huge potential for the NHS

Today marks Seventy years of the NHS, arguably the most loved and cherished institution within the UK. Yet in recent years, we have seen the NHS has become a victim of its own success. The innovations within the service are enabling people to live longer, but this has not come without its consequences.

As patients live longer, we see far more complex illnesses, which take longer to treat, and require a large amount of ongoing care once the patient is discharged. The knock-on effect of this is we see higher demand for social care than ever before, with providers struggling to meet the required supply needed to fulfil this ever-increasing demand.

These problems have meant that the political debate around the NHS has never been more toxic, with both main parties fighting over the matters that have caused the current issues, with few debates actually focusing on how we can improve the problems at hand.

The Government has marked the 70th anniversary, with a 10-year funding settlement, promising an extra £20 billion funding, per year, by 2023. This leaves NHS England with a task of great importance, spending this money efficiently and creatively, benefitting the patient directly.

I believe we are entering a really exciting time in healthcare, with the potential digital health and patient data offers. The enhanced ability and levels of digital health technologies, we are beginning to see huge potential for both patients and clinicians. Deploying these technologies in the correct areas and coupling them with more effective uses of patient data could go some way in helping the NHS meet the current demand for its services.

An exciting opportunity is empowering the patient with their health data. Trusts and CCGs across the UK are looking at ways they can improve patients immediate access to their health data. Some patients in the UK can now view their medical records online, giving them greater knowledge and awareness of their own health. This is beneficial for personal health management as patients are educated on the best ways to manage their illnesses, with the aims of avoiding a hospital admission.

Secondly, we are beginning to see applications designed specifically at empowering the patient with their own health management. Consentric by MyLife Digital is providing the personal-data management capabilities for the Diabetes Digital Coach test-bed – one of seven high-profile NHS England pilot projects targeting 5.5m diabetes sufferers. The aim is to equip them to manage their condition better using digital tools and data. Funded under the NHS Internet of Things (IoT) programme, the platform will go live this year.

Crucially, patients are completely in the driving seat. They can choose whether to share their data and with whom. Permissions are managed in a secure, central, cloud-based personal data ‘strongbox’. This can sit across any number of health-related or administration-based IT systems and connect to patient websites, mobile apps, and even wearable devices, acting as a single window to, control system for, and auditor of an individual’s data permissions.

This data, with the correct permissions, can then be accessed by clinicians, allowing them to have a much better understanding of their patient’s condition, with the aim of them being able to identify any problems that may arise sooner, again with the aim of keeping the patient out of hospital.

We believe, by empowering the patient with their health data, patients will be far more conscientious when it comes to managing their health conditions, leading to healthier lifestyles and the ability to manage their conditions without medical interventions, which will go some-way to relieving pressures on primary care.

Consentric can enabling applications offering a patient-centric styled service, the ability to be fully transparent with their patients over the uses of their data, ultimately leading to a trust to be built with the patient, allowing for more data to be shared across the wider healthcare community, delivering the patient with advanced insights and enhanced qualities of research for the wider community.

The potential digital health offers the NHS is exponential, when integrated, the most efficient health service in the world[1] will become even more so, and ultimately patient care outcomes can be improved, and in a less costly way, extremely relevant for the NHS. Investing now will mean the NHS can deliver extremely effective digital health solutions, empowering their patients and giving their staff better tools to carry out their jobs to an even greater level of expertise and care.

 

[1] Nick Triggle, 14th July 2017, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40608253

 

Harry Cromack

Policy Analyst