More than two-thirds of British adults think the NHS should use technology more to increase efficiency and improve patient outcomes

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

10 August 2015 – 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 online research carried out by YouGov on behalf of Trustmarque. However, the research has revealed that NHS England isn’t 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 findings also 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. There is no doubt that technology can play a significant role in meeting these objectives, but these survey findings reveal that that there is a lot of work to be done if the 2020 Vision is to be met,” said Angelo Di Ventura, Director at Trustmarque. “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.”

Citizens in favour of digital technology when it comes to appointment management

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. 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 surveyed online are in favour of digital channels which can help improve appointment attendee rates.

Citizens want to interact in different ways

When asked, nearly 1 in 2 adults (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 online 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.

More apps and wearables please

The online 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. 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,” added Di Ventura.

The full ‘Digital NHS Healthcheck: The Citizens’ View’ report can be downloaded at http://www.trustmarque.com/report-the-digital-nhs-healthcheck-citizens-view

 * All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,010 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th and 20th July 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).