NHS App updates ‘will tap into smart device data’

NHS app

The UK government plans to link the NHS App to data generated by smart devices, including step counts and heart rate, for example, according to Health Secretary Victoria Atkins.

She told The Times in an interview that a new version of the app would be able to harness that data to “provide personalised advice, screening, and treatment that stops people developing major diseases.”

Her remarks followed a presentation at the Nuffield Trust, in which she said the NHS App will become “the front door for prevention, as well as for cure,” highlighting a number of forthcoming changes, including improvements to its capabilities in confirming and modifying appointments and booking procedures like vaccinations and tests.

That will “increase choice [and] reduce the number of missed appointments by half a million every year,” said Atkins, who also said a new NHS staffing app is on the way that will be used to make it easier to roster electronically and to end the use of “expensive off-framework agencies.”

In Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Spring budget announcement this week, the government set aside £3.4 billion for technology investments in the NHS, which will go towards a range of initiatives, including updating IT systems, digitising operating theatres, upgrading MRI scanners, improving the use of electronic patient records, and deploying artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce “form filling by doctors and nurses.”

The allocation is tied to a productivity pledge by the NHS, which, by the summer, will start reporting against new productivity metrics, not only at the national level, but also across integrated care boards and trusts.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said after the budget that investment in capital to fund new technology means the NHS can commit to deliver 2% annual productivity growth in the final two years of the next parliament, which would “unlock tens of billions of savings.”

The NHS App and new telemedicine services are in line for £430 million of new investment, Atkins told The Times.

“If you think of the data that we have on our phones, healthcare is absolutely going to be there, encouraging people to find out what is a healthy lifestyle for them. How can they help quit smoking, talking therapies on the NHS App […] These are all things that are going to be helping us in future,” she said.