Most British adults think the NHS should use technology more to increase efficiency

Survey reveals NHS England not on target to meet 2020 Vision commitment, with only 4% of adults currently able to access their health records online

More than two-thirds - 68% - of British adults believe that the NHS could, and should, use technology more in order to increase efficiency, improve patient outcomes, and raise the overall patient experience, according to research carried out by YouGov on behalf of Trustmarque Solutions.

However, the research has also revealed that NHS England is not on target to meet the Government’s commitment to give everybody online access to their GP records by 2015. Indeed, 96% of respondents stated they either didn’t have online access to all of their health records, or were unaware of whether they did or not.

The NHS is under constant pressure to reduce costs while at the same time ensuring clinical excellence

The findings highlighted that the inability of health professionals to share information effectively was affecting patient care and efficiency. Almost two-fifths - 39% of adults - said they, or someone they knew, had to provide health professionals, such as GPs, pharmacists, hospital workers etc, with the same medical information on more than one occasion in the last 12 months. Meanwhile, over a quarter - 28% - stated they, or someone they knew, had experienced a delay in receiving care due to health professionals not sharing information.

“The NHS is under constant pressure to reduce costs while at the same time ensuring clinical excellence," said Angelo Di Ventura, Director at Trustmarque.

"There is no doubt that technology can play a significant role in meeting these objectives, but these survey findings reveal there is a lot of work to be done if the 2020 Vision is to be met.

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.”

The survey then went on to look at how citizens can manage and book their appointments online. Interestingly, 40% of adults didn’t think they were able to make a GP, hospital, consultation, or hospital test appointment online. More than half of respondents - 54% - thought they could book a GP appointment online, compared to only 12% for both hospital consultations and hospital scans/tests.

At a time when the NHS reports missed GP appointments have been estimated to cost in excess of £162m each year and 6.9 million outpatient hospital appointments are missed annually, it is clear that technology can play a role in helping reduce this number.

There is no doubt that technology can play a significant role in meeting these objectives, but these survey findings reveal there is a lot of work to be done if the 2020 Vision is to be met

When asked how they receive appointment reminders, 32% of adults said they received them by text, 25% were reminded on the phone, and 22% received reminders in the post. Interestingly, only 5% said they received reminders via email. However, when asked how they would prefer to receive reminders, 58% of respondents said text message, followed by email (36%), phone (20%) and post (17%). This indicates that British adults are in favour of digital channels that can help to improve appointment attendee rates.

When asked, nearly half of those surveyed - 48% - said they would support the NHS giving patients the option of ‘virtual consultations’ over video links where appropriate. In addition, the majority - 72% of respondents - said they would like to be able to communicate with health professionals outside of formal appointments; with phone (40%) and email (35%) being the most-popular options. The survey also highlighted that nearly half - 49% - of adults surveyed have used online healthcare information to identify and diagnose systems or suggest courses of action; 28% stated they would use such services more often if more information was readily available. Providing such services could create considerable efficiency benefits for the NHS, as well as offering greater convenience to patients.

The survey revealed that only 10% of British adults had used a mobile health app to help them monitor and manage their health. However, 76% stated that they thought the NHS should offer or approve health apps. Booking appointments (47%), managing prescriptions (42%), and diet/exercise tracking and advice (38%) were cited as the most-popular services that should be offered via a mobile app. 81% of respondents said they would like to see more connected and wearable devices in healthcare. Here, the ability to monitor vulnerable people (50%), monitor patients at home (44%) and help patients follow diet and exercise regimes (39%) were the most-popular potential applications of the technology.

"New technology innovations are placing existing NHS infrastructure under pressure, both in terms of IT systems and people," said Di Ventura.

It’s imperative that every penny spent in the NHS represents the best value possible, which means working with technology partners that can help deliver this value, while driving the organisational transformation that will underpin an improved patient experience

"At the same time NHS-wide initiatives, such as the drive towards the ‘paperless’ NHS, are further adding to the load. However, it is clear that UK adults want greater access to digital healthcare services and in the long-run this promises to increase efficiencies and improve patient care.

"It’s imperative that every penny spent in the NHS represents the best value possible, which means working with technology partners that can help deliver this value, while driving the organisational transformation that will underpin an improved patient experience."

But, commenting on the research, Beverley Bryant, director of digital technology for NHS England, said the NHS was improving its online presence, adding: "Over 97% of GP practices offer patients the chance to access their GP records online, as well as book appointments and order repeat prescriptions. We encourage everyone to ask their GP surgery to set up their online access next time they visit."

She added: “We're aware that, due to the fact that these services have not been in place for very long, not everybody knows they're available. Now that the services are available, we are working closely with GP practices and patient groups across the country to encourage uptake.

“The NHS is committed to becoming paper-free by 2018 when all health information will be shared digitally between care settings. We believe this will benefit patients in a number of ways including reducing delays. The focus for 15/16 is to extend the online record access to include full detailed coded elements, not just the summary - a contractual requirement for GPs by April 2016.”

The full Digital NHS Healthcheck: The Citizens’ View report can be downloaded here.

Companies