Data, apps, and phones

There is little doubt about the increasing part which technology such as data, phones or the use of apps has to play in the delivery of health services. Nor is there any doubt about the way in which, properly planned and executed, technology can save time and resources whilst enhancing patient outcomes. To illustrate this we have chosen three stories which were released in March 2024, but we could easily have picked many more.

Our first example comes from the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) an umbrella organisation which brings together ‘patient organisations and professional bodies representing the breadth of musculoskeletal health.’ Their report into the impact of living with musculoskeletal conditions makes a number of recommendations for professionals including supported self-management, shared ownership of services and moving services into community spaces.

Importantly, the report also highlights the importance of having ‘robust and accessible epidemiological, clinical and outcomes data’ in order to better target the help needed. Not only that, once providers have a better understanding of potential barriers they can draw up programmes and communication methods which will speak more directly to those in need of help.

The second example arises from an initiative to improve telephone contact across GP practices. Trials of a digital system which enabled GP teams to better manage multiple calls resulted in over a thirty percent increase in patients being able to contact their practice. Meanwhile one Warwickshire practice reduced the number of patient-abandoned calls by 90%, simply by analysing call data and ensuring extra staff were on hand during peak times. Of course, not all health practices will be able to provide extra staff in that way but that is where additional phone answering back up such as that provided by Clinic Appointments comes into its own. We can provide as-needed call answering and appointment booking capabilities when health practices are stretched.

Our third technology story also comes from the NHS, this time reporting on a new prescription feature within the NHS App. This enables patients to not only order their prescriptions via the app but also to see when those prescriptions have been issued and sent to a nominated pharmacy. The app also now includes a feature which enables individuals without a nominated pharmacy to use an embedded barcode to collect prescriptions from any pharmacy.

The increasing popularity of the NHS app has resulted in a 79% increase in use from February 2023 to February 2024 with twenty-nine million views in the most recent period. Commenting on the app Dr Vin Diwakar, National Transformation Director, at NHS England said: “We’re delighted to see so many people making use of the NHS App’s new prescription feature. The service is one of many features on the app, which is helping to reduce the administrative burden for general practice as well as making it easier for people to access NHS services.” And of course, the more that people become comfortable with the NHS app the more that they are likely to accept other interactive technologies across health services such as online booking with secure card processing as required.