Publication Digital Health and Care 25 May, 2016

The future of public services: digital patients

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Today’s report, 'The future of public services: digital patients', highlights the important role app and wearable technology will play in healthcare. This paper is the third in a series, conducted in partnership with Accenture, looking at the transformative role technology will play in the future delivery of public services.

The emergence of wearable and app technology in healthcare presents policymakers with an unprecedented opportunity to engage patients in their own healthcare.

Those with low health literacy have poorer health, go to hospital more frequently, and make less use of preventative services. Not only do apps and wearables help users navigate and monitor their symptoms. If care teams had access to user-generated data, it could enrich their understanding of the patient and how best to manage their condition.

Now patients in England and Wales have access to a digital health record, the infrastructure for a new relationship between patients and clinicians is in place. The electronic transaction of health data via apps and wearables could soon become the de facto way of interacting with the health service.

To secure this vision, the NHS will need to overcome two obstacles.

First, clinicians have been sceptical about digital patient initiatives, but securing their buy-in is critical to success. This process will be made easier if clinicians are confident about the merit of new health products.

Improving the quality assurance process is the second challenge. Historically the NHS has adopted a ‘command and control’ approach through the Health Apps Library and the new NHS Kitemark. It may now be time to use the techniques of the digital economy, such as peer review, to help consumers and clinicians navigate the growing mobile health market.

The future of public services: digital justice, which was published in February, can be found here.