Beverley Bryant: Enabling patient-centred care through information and technology

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  • Posted:Wednesday 24 June 2015

Beverley Bryant, Director of Digital Technology at NHS England, speaks at our 2015 Digital Health and Care Congress. Beverley focuses on digital inclusion, customer experience and the cost savings that can be made by the effective implementation of digital technology in the NHS.


The customer experience for people trying to engage with health and care is not really acceptable. We’re lagging behind other industries. The 2015 Customer Service Satisfaction Index for England said that people feel like the way that they interact with other industries digitally... they do their online banking, they do their shopping... it would be really nice if they could interact with NHS services in that same way. 

What about those of us who aren’t technology literate? How do we make sure that the technology-enabled middle classes don’t snap up all the appointments and suddenly make it difficult for those that are not enabled? So we’ve been really mindful to test digital inclusion. Frankly if we’re going to bring our health and care services together for more integration, isn’t it obvious that our NHS needs to be joined up to itself, that patients care records can be accessed from any clinical setting? 

What we’re finding is that when you implement convenience it actually is cheaper, so the productivity and efficiency need not be the driver. The driver is really about the customer service, but what we’re finding is when you do it, it actually costs less, so everybody wins.

Of all the public preferences the multi-channel offer is actually the thing that they told us they want more than anything... that we will always make it possible for people to meet with clinicians face to face, to have telephone contact. But they’re saying it would also be really good if they could be signposted in giving information. 

This is really good news for us because we kind of hoped that that would be the case, and then on some of the initiatives we’ve actually ranked them in order of those areas where there is the highest cash-releasing benefits.

So for example, having multi disciplinary teams working on a Skype consultation or a video conference or a teleconference with all the team and the carers and the patients that stops the patient having to go in for an appointment, that stops people having to organise the administration around that appointment actually really does save money. It gives convenience and it saves money.

And of course online medicines management kind of makes sense. Ordering your repeat prescription online at a time that’s convenient for you, that then being electronically approved by the GP and then the pharmacy, them texting you to say ‘come and collect your drugs, they’re ready’, or having them delivered to your home saves a lot of backwards and forward and paper processing. has been extremely popular since we launched it in 2007. It is already a single access point for information and advice in the form of NHS choices, but moving forward it’s going to be much more of a digital hub for all the citizens to be able to access.

The directories of service that already exist, we’re going to be updated and upgrading them. has been a bit too national, but what we really need it to be is a resource for local organisations, so the vision is to have an where the Local Authority, the Health & Wellbeing Boards, all work together to provide content onto those sites for the citizens, to meet the needs of what is relevant in their local area. 

We’ve worked hard over the last couple of years to give people access to their records, order repeat prescriptions online and book appointments with your GP, and we’ve been really pleased with how GPs have really embraced the challenge and got us to 97% by March. Moving forward we want to give greater flexibility to people in booking appointments.

One of the new things that we’re looking to do is to give people the ability to actually register for their GP online. Again evidence has shown that it just saves a lot of administrative bureaucracy and it’s more convenient for citizens.

I can’t talk about all these digital services without really re-enforcing the importance of security, so our team have been running some pilots, we’ve been trying new ways, we’ve been working with local organisations too, and we’ve also looked at the verify system that chooses other intermediaries to verify identity, because again if people don’t feel confident that their security is managed, then they won’t use the services.

The NHS e-referral service went live yesterday. The idea is to get from 52% of electronic bookings up to 100% where we get rid of paper referrals. More importantly we provide functionality for clinicians, for GP referrals and for hospitals that actually make it easy to use and they just don’t want to use paper because it’s so much more beneficial, and of course for patients the ability to be able to make changes to an appointment, cancel, re-book... all those kind of customer front end services... are at the heart of our plans for the NHS e-referral service.

And digital urgent and emergency care, what the evidence has told us is that a lot of people ringing 111 are just a bit worried about stuff and they don’t necessarily feel they need to see a doctor. Why don’t we provide them with more self triage or online tools that actually gets them to the information that they need so that they don’t have to be phoning up and interacting? So at the moment we’re piloting with a few CCGs some anxiety pathways and some cold and flu pathways in a digital way. 


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