New technology ‘can save NHS £2bn’

Published: Tuesday 10th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The NHS can save £2 billion by 2020 by getting people more involved in their own healthcare by using new technology and the private sector, a study has claimed.

The health service can learn from dedicated social networking sites and apps which give patients access to forums to share information and “virtual” primary care, the report by think tank Reform suggests.

New technology could also allow patients to do jobs previously carried out by clinicians, as diabetics do by measuring their own blood sugar levels.

While retailers use loyalty cards to understand their customers better, NHS hospitals should be using private sector companies to improve customer service – as many already do – the report said.

While the NHS has launched several initiatives to improve patient engagement, it suggests many are not even aware they exist.

Research has found that only 51% of patients knew of their right to a choice of NHS services while more than three quarters of people had not heard of the NHS Constitution – established to make the health service more consumer-focused – before receiving treatment.

The report also highlighted the problems faced by NHS Direct and the 111 service when they were introduced.

It pointed to a recent survey of more than 7,000 middle-aged patients which found that a third said they have difficulties reading and understanding basic health-related written information, while another found that around a fifth of the UK population cannot read or follow basic instructions on medicine labels.

Cathy Corrie, senior researcher at Reform, said the NHS is “out of sync” with the public.

“Helping patients play a bigger part in their health and care could save the NHS billions and ease the burden on A&E and GP surgeries,” she said.

“This is a win-win for the health service.”

The report suggests a number of methods that could be used to improve the NHS, such as the Vitality insurance programme which provides incentives for healthy behaviour. It sees members earn points for going to the gym, enrolling in programmes to quit smoking and buying healthy foods in partner supermarkets.

It also suggested using the internet, as seen with US-based online community PatientsLikeMe, which enables patients to meet others with similar conditions and share their experiences.

Published: Tuesday 10th February 2015 by The News Editor

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