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Top five ways technology can drive effective primary healthcare

The NHS has embraced and realised the importance of digitising its services through key initiatives such as the NHS e-referrals (opens in new tab) system. In December last year, the NHS reported how twenty one per cent of patients in England could access their medical record online (opens in new tab), a dramatic increase from two per cent in 2013.

With primary healthcare offering high quality and positive patient experiences, these technology initiatives have shown a glimpse into how digitising successfully can drive effective healthcare.

But has it? In 2014, NHS figures showed one in six patients had to wait at least a week (opens in new tab)before seeing a GP. Also, £1 billion a year (opens in new tab) is being spent by the health service collecting and checking data, with 70 per cent of staff saying the burden of paperwork has risen in the past five years. So what else can the NHS do to increase efficiency within the primary care system to benefit the clinicians and patients?

With primary healthcare in the midst of a digital revolution, it is important to continue the momentum in using technology as an efficiency tool.

Josie Byrne (opens in new tab) investigates the top five ways technology will help drive the efficiencies of primary care services throughout the country. By combining these five key components, the primary health service will have a structured, sophisticated and digitised system which can offer the highest quality care to all patients.

  1. Integrate Systems

One of the most effective ways the NHS can improve its digitised services is by further integrating systems within primary healthcare. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, recently announced full GP records (opens in new tab) including blood-test results, appointment records and medical histories will be available next year on smartphones.

As well as this, Mr. Hunt also announced one in four smartphone users (opens in new tab) should be routinely accessing NHS advice, services and their own medical records through apps by 2017. Using the right software to continue integrating these apps within the main infrastructure already in place will increase efficiency and drive effectiveness within primary healthcare’s digital services.

  1. Empower the patient

With emerging technologies, as well as the use of apps and online services increasing within the digitising of the NHS, primary healthcare is developing how patients use its services. Helping patients embrace new technologies and showcasing how beneficial the technology is will empower the patient and increase efficiency within primary healthcare.

Empowering the patient is important for many reasons, including the prevention of illnesses. In 2013, NHS England estimated that if the public were fully involved (opens in new tab) in managing their health and engaged in prevention activities, the NHS could save £30,000,000,000 (opens in new tab). By empowering the patient and giving them control of their medical records, it is not only cost effective, but it will help improve the lifestyle of patients and increase their knowledge of their own healthcare.

To make sure this can be achieved successfully, the NHS must provide simple, reliable and affordable access for patients to use the technology for primary healthcare.

  1. Accessible technology

With the increase of apps being used within primary healthcare, it’s vital technology is accessible for all patients. This includes ensuring the software is easy to use and understand, as well as being available to all patients regardless of their disabilities. Increasing the ways in which patients can contact clinicians through apps, for example, will positively impact the user experience for all patients. However, ensuring every app is created to be accessible for all patients, regardless of their condition, is crucial for the overall care of the patient and efficiency of primary healthcare.

  1. Increase interaction

Around 90 per cent of patient interaction (opens in new tab) is with primary care services, making the first point of call for patients needing to be efficient and successful at all times. With the increased use of technology, this can be achieved by giving patients the opportunity to choose how to contact their primary healthcare service.

This will offer the patient options to contact their GP or dental practise by their personal preference moving from push communication to pull communication. Giving the patient control of how and when they contact their clinician increases the opportunity of a meaningful interaction. This changes the patient and doctor relationship and ensures the patient has the option to be in control of their healthcare.

  1. Embrace emerging technologies

Emerging technologies must be embraced throughout primary care before it is possible to see the full benefits both professionals and patients can expect. For example, iBeacons could have a dramatic effect on the elderly or patients with long term conditions which need close monitoring.

In practise iBeacons could be used to monitor elderly patients receiving long term care so as to understand their interactions with the community. This could highlight whether a patient may be in danger of becoming lonely, allowing the appropriate referrals to then be made to prevent this.

At the 2015 Health and Care Innovation Expo (opens in new tab), Ros Roughton, the Director of NHS Commissioning, stated GP access is a top priority for the NHS, and technology will be the main enabler (opens in new tab) in increasing access to primary care services.

By increasing the amount of technology the primary healthcare uses, its current infrastructure will only get stronger. With the NHS seeing the opportunities technology can bring, successfully implementing new ideas and technology into primary healthcare services will be accepted by patients and medical staff.

To increase the efficiency of digitised services, the NHS needs to work alongside software developers to continue the transformation of its growing digital services. Having expert advice in how to continue the drive to efficient and effective primary healthcare by utilising technology will offer patients a successful primary healthcare service.