NHS has ‘loads to do’ towards digital adoption, health secretary says

The NHS has ‘loads to do’ in the adoption of digital technologies, health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock has said.

Hancock told the BBC that the NHS needs to become more convenient for both patients as well as doctors and nurses. One of the ways it can do this is through deploying more apps, Hancock suggested.

“One of the things I’ve done in different parts of government is make sure that it’s more tech savvy and digital,” he told the BBC.

“There’s loads to do on that area in the NHS, both so you as a patient can use technology so the NHS is more convenient for you.”

“But also to help clinicians – doctors, nurses – so that their lives are easier, using the sort of technology that you and I use all the time and applying that to the NHS.”

The comments come days after Hancock laid out his digital intentions in his first speech as health and social care secretary where he announced £500 million would be given to the NHS to help spread digital technologies.

Hancock’s previous role as secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport saw him become the first MP to launch his own app.

The app – designed to inform his West Suffolk constituents through a social media newsfeed – was criticised for its lack of privacy in regard to user data and how it requested access to users’ photos and videos on the iOS version.

Hancock will be overseeing the much anticipated NHS app which is set to launch later this year and which will allow users to book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions and access NHS 111. 

Nick Ford, chief technology evangelist at Mendix opted for a cautious approach to the announcement, saying: “By using digital technologies to take a more collaborative approach to application development, healthcare organisations in general and the NHS in particular can remain relevant to the ever-evolving demands of patients whilst also delivering more with limited budgets. They just need the right digital mindset to embrace this transformation cost-effectively and at a scale.”

Winston Bond, senior technical director at Arxan warned against the potential security issues that apps would face in the NHS.

“Most health apps have significant vulnerabilities. The impact for healthcare organisations and health app users can be devastating. NHS trusts and hospitals are autonomous, and they each have their own way of controlling devices and distributing apps. This means there is no single, convenient, centralised way that all the apps on a clinicians’ mobile devices without making them available to anyone through the public app stores.

But bear in mind, even though an app may be approved by the NHS or another body, it is still as vulnerable as an unapproved app. As a baseline, medical device manufacturers and developers need to thoroughly test the applications to ensure they are effectively protected against cyber-attacks and exploits. Crucially, this must be done before they come onto the market. The healthcare community should understand this concept better than anyone – just as prevention saves lives and reduces care costs, this same approach needs to apply to app security,” Bond said.

Reece Armstrong is a reporter for Digital Health Age. Coming from the North East of England, Reece has an MA in Media & Journalism and a BA in Popular & Contemporary Music from Newcastle University. Reach him on Twitter or email via: reece.armstrong@rapidnews.com

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