Blog 05 July 2022

Putting the NHS in patients’ pockets

by Louisa Mackintosh

Patient engagement portals

Integration of patient engagement portals with the NHS App to drive a better patient experience

In June, we saw the launch of the Government’s plan for digital health and social care. It sets out an ambitious vision to transform how care is provided. Leveraging the power of technology as an enabler to drive innovation and efficiencies – means a more positive patient experience.

We are all aware of the unprecedented challenges the NHS is facing. With constraints on funding, and an ageing population it’s impossible to keep up with demand. Throw in the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve seen pressure like never before heaped on the health service. This has lead to huge elective care backlogs and put staff under tremendous strain.

Part of this new plan focuses on improving and expanding the features on the NHS App, so that people can be more involved with their own care. This will lead to healthier outcomes and removing some of that heavy burden we’ve talked about from the NHS. As Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said: “Ensuring more personalisation and better join-up of the system will benefit patients, free up clinician time and help us to bust the COVID backlogs.”

By March 2023, NHS App users will be able to:

  • book COVID vaccines through the NHS App, as well as the NHS website
  • receive NHS notifications and messaging, including reminders and alerts for COVID-19 vaccine booking and prescription readiness
  • start to view and manage hospital elective-care appointments across participating trusts

The focus this summer and autumn is going to be on helping people manage their health. Users will have access to their health record, the ability to manage their hospital appointments, receive notifications and messages and amend their contact details and preferences.

A better experience for patients

This is an exciting development for us as patients and wider healthcare stakeholders. Empowering patients who want easier digital access is a great development. It and means more of us will have access to our appointment information through our smartphones. For those of us who want to manage our health through the device in our pocket, it will make it even easier and even more accessible and lead to a sizeable reduction in DNAs. The end result? A better experience for patients and improved clinical utilisation for Trusts.

What about the risk of excluding people due to age, language or other barriers? Or those who lack confidence in using digital tools? Offering up these digital services as part of a multi-channel offer that includes in person, phone, letter and online services, is paramount. In addition, education and a robust communication plan to lower these barriers, increasing adoption across the board.

Upskilling of staff

As for staff they should be encouraged to continue with the COVID-19 entrepreneurial spirit of embracing new tech to bring wide-scale transformational change. As always though, the devil is in the detail. In tandem with the introduction of innovative technologies must come the upskilling of NHS and social care staff, to help them to get to grips with new tech where necessary. Technology can bring about rapid transformational change, but only if people use it. A big cultural and organisational shift needs to occur, supporting staff to learn new skills and be more confident with embracing new tech for the greater good.

Our very own patient engagement portal, Patient Hub, with its digital appointment notifications, makes it easy for patients to be more involved in their own care. We support many NHS Trusts in giving patients greater control over their own appointments, to free up staff time and increase capacity across the entire Trust. This means resources are fully utilised with clinicians seeing the right patient at the right time. It’s incredibly easy to use for patients and staff, meaning uptake and adoption on both sides is high. Plus, we are the only provider to offer 100% of patients their preferred channel of engagement.

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