Is the U.K. ahead with the digitalization of healthcare?

Posted Oct 1, 2017 by Tim Sandle
The British health service continues on its path towards digital health, with a new round of leading health trusts being named. The digitalization project presents opportunities for technology companies.
Accident and emergency wing of a London hospital.
Accident and emergency wing of a London hospital.
The new list of digital health trusts was made the U.K.’s beleaguered Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The Conservative Member of Parliament unveiled the next set of National Health Service (NHS) trusts to lead the digitization of the British healthcare system. A National Health Service trust is an organization within the English NHS generally serving either a geographical area or a specialized function. The newly identified trusts are termed ‘fast followers’; this is because they represent the second wave of NHS trusts to begin down the digital path. The eighteen newly identified acute care trusts will be paired with one of the twelve existing trusts that have begun to implement digital services. The twelve trusts undergo the ungainly title of Global Digital Exemplars (GDEs).
Global Digital Exemplars
The GDEs were launched in 2016 and their role is to act as beacons of digital progress in the NHS, creating innovative technologies such as apps and online portals to help streamline access to care. According to PharmaPhorum, one app will be designed to give patients access to their medical records. Other innovations include a new telemedicine hotline, through which medical advice can be dispensed by a trained nurse or doctor. Longer term the telemedicine service will be equipped to feed information directly back to the medical records, which can be viewed via the app.
IoT for healthcare
There is also scope for linking NHS apps with third-party devices, such as Fitbit. Here, if a patient was advised to take more exercise the data collect from the Fitbit could be transmitted to the medical record. These innovations would represent a major step forwards in service integration, although there will be issues of cybersecurity to account for.
An ambulance in London  September 2017.
An ambulance in London, September 2017.
Based on a statement from the NHS: “Exemplars will share their learning and experiences to enable other trusts to follow in their footsteps as quickly and effectively as possible.”
The 'fast followers'
The newly defined ‘fast followers’ will each be linked to an appropriate GDE based on geographical proximity. Each follower is to be awarded £5 million ($7 million) to introduce the adoption of innovative technologies. This comes from central government funds; however, reach follower trust will be required to match the funding, drawn from local budgets. This latter development is likely to prove controversial with some people given the funding constraints upon the U.K. health service.
The British government has the aim of using digitalization to make the NHS more efficient and to seek improvements with patient care.