Public may support using health technology to avoid hospital, but health divisions must not widen
Technological advances in healthcare must not widen divisions between the ‘healthy haves’ and ‘unhealthy ‘have nots’ in society, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation warned today (13 June). Matthew Taylor called for vigilance in the area as the foundation unveiled findings from a research study that was conducted on its behalf by Ipsos, supported by Google.
This found that most respondents who took part in a survey said they would happily use health technology if it meant they could avoid going into hospital. The survey – conducted among 1,037 members of the public – reflects an increasing appetite among patients to use technology to self-manage their care, and more broadly, to take more responsibility for their own health and that family members, the foundation suggested.
Mr Taylor said: ‘This research shows the potential of technology in empowering patients to better manage and monitor their own health, especially if it means they can avoid being admitted to hospital. There is clearly an appetite amongst the public to use technology to self-manage their long-term conditions, and more broadly, to take greater responsibility for their health and that of their families.
‘However, the decisions we make now as a society will determine whether technological change means we can make continuous improvement in the offer we make to everyone through the NHS, or whether it will divide ever more widely the “healthy haves” from the “unhealthy have nots”. We must always deliver greater digitisation with equity in mind.’
Mr Taylor stressed that the government had to accept that additional funding – both for digital initiatives and capital – would be needed to ‘fully grasp these opportunities’. He added: ‘The government’s recent commitment to accelerate and widen the use of the NHS App should also help to strengthen the public’s understanding of the benefits of digital engagement.'
The decisions we make will determine whether technological change means we can make continuous improvement in ... the NHS, or whether it will divide (people) ever more widely [Matthew Taylor, NHS Confederation]
Seven in 10 (72 per cent) of those who took part in the research also said they would use technology – such as wearable and health monitoring devices – and would willingly share data with their doctors and other medical professionals. In addition, 78 per cent of the respondents said they would be happy to use a range of monitoring equipment to help them manage their health if it was recommended by an NHS professional, with nine in 10 (89 per cent) people aged over 75 willing to do so.
The government recently announced a target for patients at more than 90 per cent of general practices in England to be able to use the NHS App to see their records, book appointments and order repeat prescriptions by next March.
The survey also found that just eight adults in 10 (83 per cent) already use some form of technology to manage their health, while even more (89 per cent) have one or more long-term condition. However, only just over half of those surveyed were satisfied with the technologies and tools that are currently on offer.
It also showed that nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of patients want their doctors to provide them with the 'best technology available', with more than half (58 per cent) wishing their doctor 'provided them with technology to monitor their health'.
Ease of appointment booking and the ability to communicate via messaging services with healthcare teams were also high on priority list.
Author: Ian A McMillan