The NHS Commissioning Board is working on a new ‘customer service platform’ to take over from NHS Choices and NHS Direct.
Bob Gann, director of partnership and strategy at the NHS CB, told EHI Live 2012 that this would be a way for the public to engage with the NHS using a wide range of channels, including telephone, web, apps and social media.
He said: “We know there is demand to do things differently and to do things better. There is a significant wish [among the public] to transact and do things online and in a digital environment.”
At the moment, he pointed out, such options are rarely available. A survey of 2,200 people by NHS Choices in August 2012, for example, found that around 40% wanted to look at their records on line, book appointments and order repeat prescriptions.
But consistently only 1% or 2% were able to do so. For instance, while 36% of the sample had expressed interest in viewing their medical records, only 2% had actually done so.
The NHS needs to make better use of social media, for example by putting people in touch with the help they need via multichannel warning systems such as the US 311 service, Gann said.
311 is a service operated by US cities that enables people to access information about government services via the web, phones, skype, twitter and apps.
As an example of the way it could work, Gann cited the recent storm to hit New York. People posted problems to the service, and both government and friends and neighbours responded.
With the increasing reliance on mobile phones – already, 40% of the 16m visits to NHS Choices each month are via mobile devices – Gann said the NHS also needs to gear up for mobile viewing and understand how to take part in the app revolution.
The new platform – which has yet to be named – will include directories of service, health information, ways to feedback about care experiences, and ways to transact with the NHS, for example by booking appointments.
It should also be able to help people find the best quality apps from among the 13,000 health apps already on offer, he said.
The platform will take over where NHS Choices and NHS Direct leave off as they close next year.
Gann said: “It will deliver a national set of authoritative information, preserving what is best of NHS Choices and NHS Direct and provide more from independent information providers.”
Gann is already working with a range of information and service providers including patientopinion.org.uk. Some services will be ready for spring 2013 and the full platform up and running by November 2013 when the NHS Choices contract expires.
Bob Gann is keen to hear from people interested in helping develop the platform and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.