The ‘customer service platform’ being created by the NHS Commissioning Board will encourage the health service to think differently about the way it interacts with patients and potential users, its director has said.
In an interview with eHealth Insider, John Coulthard, the NHS CB’s director of customer relations, said he was often asked which services the platform would replace, or what kind of technology it would be built on.
However, he said repeatedly it was “much more a state of mind” for “getting people to engage with their health and wellness.”
Asked specifically about whether it would incorporate the current NHS Choices website and other familiar services such as NHS Direct and NHS Pathways, which underpins NHS 111, he said the question was “not relevant” as “that is not to think about state of mind but to think about stovepipes [for information].”
Coulthard said the new service might take the information held in these different services – and possibly others – and expose it to different users in different ways.
So, he suggested, a call-up of user reviews “might look like a dashboard of NHS quality”, while a map of local GP practices might help somebody choose the best family doctor for them – and an app holding the same information might provide directions from the street.
The customer service platform is one of a number of ‘offers’ that the NHS CB outlined to the NHS in the planning guidance it issued last December.
The project is being headed by Coulthard, who was formerly head of Microsoft’s UK healthcare team. Coulthard’s reports at the NHS CB are focused on values and standards, marketing, and customer choice.
In his interview with EHI, he emphasised that the platform will grow out of this background; making services more “transparent” to users, marketing the NHS effectively to different groups; and engaging with “digital natives” and “change agents” who turn first to digital communications and challenge traditional ways of thinking.
National director of patients and information Tim Kelsey has said that the platform will make its debut at the NHS Innovation Expo being held this week.
However, Coulthard said he would be using a seminar at the event to show how news about the norovirus had spread across London using social and print media, and to encourage the NHS to think about how it could engage effectively with these conversations.
In terms of the platform, he said he was thinking of a service at four levels. The first, level 100, is simple search, in which people might use Google to look for information on a specific condition, and find an NHS site with the information they required.
“Level 200 is a bit more personalised. In return for some information about you, you might get your searches saved, or a call to action.
“Level 300 is telling people who they can act on that – for example, whether their GP can offer a service they need or another GP can do that, and whether they can book online.
“And then level 400 is participation. So, in future, lots more people will do things online, and various studies in the UK and the US have shown that can be cheaper.”
Practically, Coulthard said that the NHS CB will not be building a new website, or rebranding services such as NHS Choices. Instead, he indicated that it will commission additional tools, including apps, from a wide range of providers to support the “state of mind” that it will embody.
He indicated that some elements of personalisation could be added to NHS Choices by June. The NHS CB will be demonstrating the first of the apps that it has chosen for its new app store at the NHS Innovation Expo.