Road to a Digital 2020: The New NHS Self-Care Virtual Health Assistant App.

Digital technology is here and it is improving lives across the country. It is making simple, repetitive tasks easier and saving money for all. Currently, an area in which we are seeing some significant digital progress is coming from the NHS, as they head towards the ever closing ‘digital by default’ 2020 pledge.

The importance of the digitisation of the NHS has had a populating effect on contemporary discourse. Looking back to the middle of 2017, the NHS IT leaders found levels of confidence to be dwindling on achieving integrated digital health and care records by 2020. Yet, within the last month, the Secretary of State for Health (Jeremy Hunt) has confidently pledged that every patient in England will be able to access their medical records and book an appointment with a GP via an app by the end of 2018. With this news comes an insightful conclusion on a digital experiment that you may have only been aware of if you live in certain areas of the UK.

NHS services across the West Midlands announced the results of a successful trial of a ‘virtual health assistant’ (ASK NHS app) that empowers patients across the region to self-assess in preference to contacting a health service. Since April 2017, roughly 4.5 million people living in the West Midlands were given access the Ask NHS app.[1] The app, by applying an evidence-driven system based on statistical analysis, helps guide the self-assessment of symptoms and navigate patients to the most applicable services, all of which help to reduce the burden on overstretched NHS workers. The app has delivered imposing outcomes. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the completed ‘Ask NHS’ symptom checker outcomes led to a recommendation to contact 111, 14% to schedule a GP appointment, 12% to follow self-care advice, and 12% to call 999.[2] Two notable benefits from this digitisation initiative can be seen in the reduction of transaction costs, and in the time saving aspect for 111 providers avoiding the time-consuming function of asking a series of detailed questions over the phone.

The Ask NHS app is a great example of how digitisation can revolutionise standard processes, in all leading to a more efficient and effective solution for the NHS and the end user.


[2] Ibid

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Guthrie Holliday
Guthrie Holliday