NHS app: is it time we modernise healthcare?

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The NHS plans to go digital in December with a new app for iOS and Android phones. The app is meant to simplify interactions with the NHS; allowing patients across the UK to book appointments and fill out repeat prescriptions online while providing a digital route to the 111 service. Further, it will provide recommendations for NHS-approved health apps from other providers, for example, exercise trackers or first aid guides. Jeremy Hunt, former health secretary, praised the app as revolutionising access to health care and putting “patients firmly in the drivers’ seat”.

The NHS app follows the growing trend of eHealth services – the development of smartphone services and online databases meant to provide medical information for consumers. Yet there are concerns about the app – although information is available at the click of a mouse, it is harder to verify which information and treatments are based on scientific research and how accurate/successful the apps on offer are. The Royal College of General Practitioners approves of the NHS app initiative but they too raise concerns that the app might complicate the management of appointments and increase GP and nurse working hours. User privacy is a further issue to be sorted as the app will store private health data, but programmers are planning to use similar encryption and protection mechanisms as in mobile banking apps.

Still, the NHS app as a central place for contacting GPs and finding health information could help patients navigate their questions both online and offline. But for those who can’t wait until December, the NHS App library already provides a variety of mobile health apps.

Image by gdsteam via Flickr

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