health apps

A positive NHS story

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So it would seem that the NHS are upping their game when it comes to digital and social. This week I’ve seen a few things that have made me think the NHS are actually embracing the impact of social media and digital assets in the healthcare world.

The NHS Commissioning Board are offering us some clarity in terms of what could potentially be an overwhelming number of health apps. The online library initially consists of 70 healthcare apps that the NHS deem to be clinically safe for people to use. And the rationale? Well, as a minimum, a clinical assurance team made up of doctors, nurses and safety specialists, are looking to see that the app is relevant to UK audiences, complies with data protection, and that the information provided within the app is based on trusted sources.

But this only gets you, as an app developer, in the door; not yet onto the site. The next qualifier is to determine whether the app could potentially cause harm to a person’s health. If the information provided is deemed to be too personalised to an individual, or indeed goes so far as to recommend treatment options, then it will not make the cut. This type of specific guidance is determined to potentially cause more harm than good if used incorrectly. And I would have to agree.

Now this type of guidance is a nice to have, but some could argue not necessarily essential. Does this list of 70 really help when you have 13,000 healthcare apps out there? Potentially not.

However, the other piece of news this week (thanks to Dominic Tyer’s Digital Intelligence blog) that has got me seeing the NHS in a bit of a different light is the announcement that they will be funding new ‘digital health hubs.’ To me, this is a bold move that demonstrates recognition of the fact that digital and social media add value to the patient journey, and can no longer be ignored in healthcare. Finally!

What these hubs look like isn’t yet clear but partnering with the Online Centres Foundation, the digital health hubs will be taking over public areas in locations such as libraries, cafes, pubs and community centres. The purpose of these is to allow those that may not have easily available internet access to become the informed patients that they deserve to be; going to their doctor with an idea of their future, without it being prescribed to them.

I’ve previously written over on the other blog I contribute to about how we as healthcare PR professionals need to be putting the patient back in the conversation, and I think these initiatives do just that. People will be able to find out more about their conditions and interact with health services online that they haven’t previously been able to, readying them for any interactions with healthcare professionals that they might have.

A lot of us sitting in our PR worlds may assume that everyone out there is sitting, eagerly waiting for us to create that online asset that improves their life as a patient, but what about those people where online assets aren’t even accessible, let alone fundamental to their patient journey? With these new hubs and more initiatvives like the app library in the pipeline, more and more people will be able to access digital assets that ultimately improve their patient journey. Keep up the good work NHS.

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