NHS England outlines plan to boost use of wearable technology

NHS England announced Wednesday proposals designed to improve health outcomes using technology and data, including increasing the use of wearable devices to monitor patients in hospitals. Tim Kelsey, NHS England's national director for patients and information, remarked "we're in a global race to put patients in the driving seat of their own healthcare, and digital is fundamental to achieving that."

The plans from the National Information Board and its partners, which aim to make technology work "harder and faster for patients," include the possible roll-out of free Wi-Fi across the entire NHS. According to NHS England, the move would allow monitoring of patients with wearable devices, such as those with asthma and diabetes. NHS England suggested that over a fifth of patients with diabetes have experienced a hypoglycaemic episode whilst in hospital, while wearable technology could help to identify problems early.

NHS England added that for people with such chronic conditions, devices, skin sensors or clothes that monitor health will be able to upload directly into patients' records through the existing NHS Choices platform. NHS England indicated that through this platform, "every citizen will soon be able to register for a GP; order prescriptions; access apps and digital tools; speak to their doctor online or via video link and view and take control of their full health record."

Bruce Keogh, NHS England's national medical director, said "I recently asked a bunch of junior doctors what single change in hospitals would make their jobs easier. I didn't expect the answer: Wi-Fi. But it makes sense." Keogh added "Wi-Fi offers the opportunity for remote monitoring of patients along with electronic prescribing through portable devices, bringing clinical information directly to the relevant people. Where used, it dramatically reduces errors and increases efficiency." According to NHS England, Wi-Fi would cut the administrative burden on staff, which is currently estimated to take up 70 percent of a junior doctor's time.

The proposed plans, which will be finalised and published in September, also include giving patients full access to their entire digital health record in real time by 2018. In addition, doctors and nurses will be able to access the most up to date information for primary, urgent and emergency care services wherever they are in England by 2018, and for all other NHS funded services by 2020.

Kelsey remarked "the NHS is embracing the offering of digital services to patients, with more than 55 million patients set to benefit from progress." He added "letting people rebook online will help tackle the estimated 160 million pounds ($253 million) that missed appointments cost the NHS each year."

For more information on the increasing use of wearable technology in healthcare, see The Rise of Wearable Healthcare Technology: Opportunities and Challenges for Pharma.

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