Nuffield Trust calls on physios to help patients use NHS digital services

Increasing patient uptake of NHS digital services will require effort on the part of physiotherapists and other staff, according to a report by the Nuffield Trust.

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Nuffield Trust: The potential for transformational change comes from patients using digital tools on every step of their health journey

The document, The Digital Patient: Transforming Primary Care? says the most effective initiatives include:

  • actively showing patients how to use online NHS services
  • clearly demonstrating the benefits
  • when it comes on online records, explaining what the record contains, providing resources to aid interpretation and promoting it as a tool to actively support self-management

It found that evidence suggests e-monitoring and wearable technology can improve people’s exercise and medication adherence. Sustained engagement can be challenging, however.

Meanwhile, professional monitoring interventions for chronic conditions, where data is sent to the health care team, has had very positive results on health outcomes and resources.

The report says there is evidence to suggest that email consultations improve communication with professionals, save time and increase overall satisfaction.

Video consultations are also generally well received by those who use them, but they tend to appeal to people who struggle to access their health care team in person.

This may change if video consultations are offered on demand or when a face-to-face option is not possible, for example out of hours, the report says.

There are 165,000 health apps on the market, and the think tank found that NHS professionals need more robust evidence about what works and in which contexts.

However, there is an emerging body of evidence to show that apps can have a positive impact on physical activity and chronic condition management, particularly for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and cardiovascular disease.

The biggest technology success stories are online appointment booking, online ordering of repeat prescriptions, and online sources of health information, particularly NHS Choices. According to the Nuffield Trust, online information can help patients manage their condition and have more productive conversations with physiotherapy staff.

Despite the pitfalls and risks, patient-facing digital technology is one of the ‘brightest hopes’ on the NHS horizon, particularly for people with long-term conditions, the Nuffield Trust concludes.

Physiotherapy staff can contribute their ideas and experiences of how IT is changing the way they work, as part of the DigitalHealth.London Tomorrow’s Patient campaign.

The initiative aims to identify and share digital innovation across primary and secondary care in the capital.


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by Gill Hitchcock

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