Digital platforms: what is in it for citizens? image

In a previous post we outlined some of the problems facing clinical and other staff in delivering health and care services, and outlined how a national digital platform might start to help. But as citizens, how’s this going to benefit us directly?

Health and care services are intended to help people to live the lives that they want to live. They should offer support, but be designed so that people stay in control and are able to focus on the things that matter to them. That will mean that people’s expectations are different - the health and care system needs to be flexible enough to respond. Technology can support that by allowing people to access their own records, manage their own health more easily and get access to health services without the blocks and barriers that exist at the moment. And when you’re being helped or treated, staff need to be able to access the right information about you, at the right time, so they can give you the best possible service.

And this is not just about NHS services. Technology can be used in social care settings to provide flexible person centred-care and ensure that the whole care team knows what they need to know about the people they are looking after. Local Cornerstone is a great example of this, using smart tools to join up systems and enable staff to excel. They are investing in tech to equip colleagues with the tools they need to do their job well without the need to spend hours of time in offices filling in forms and responding to emails. Improving their systems and processes saves money which can be redirected into the local community. It also ensures that staff are able to spend more of their time caring for and being with the people they support.

There’s good evidence that this kind of approach can deliver real benefits. For example, all citizens in Catalonia can access their health data and online health services securely and confidentially through their own ‘Personal Health Channel’. As well as giving them access to data about diagnoses, clinical reports, test results and prescriptions, the Channel also pulls in data from accredited mobile apps to build up a better picture about patient’s health. There are similar systems running or in development in the Basque country, the US and elsewhere. Since 2015, citizens in Norway have not only had access to their details, but have also had tools to allow communication with caregivers.

Most of this has been best expressed by the National Expert Panel, headed up by Professor David Bates, which recently reported to the Scottish Parliament. In a blog, I can’t cover all the detail, so I strongly recommend anyone wanting to know more to check out that report.

So between us, we know what we want to do. But at the moment, we just can’t do it in Scotland because all our systems are so different. That’s why the NDS has been established. We are building up a team of the best software engineers to build the infrastructure that will allow all of us to build new, connected health products. Even then, we won’t do this alone. We need the best thinking and input from across the public sector (health and social care) so that what we build will be fit, not just for staff, but for all of us as citizens.

In future posts, I want to cover the potential of wearables (e.g. Fitbit) and the need to really focus on outcomes – what matters for citizens. Here’s a couple of questions: what else should we be covering? How can we work together? Let us know what you think.