The NHS Choices website must expand beyond its current audience of “healthy, wealthy mums” to meet the needs of elderly and poor citizens, NHS England's head of digital services has said.
Helen Rowntree discussed the organisation’s plans to improve NHS Choices as part of the National Information Board’s IT framework at the e-Health Week event in Olympia.
Rowntree said one of the main priorities for NHS Choices was to join up “disparate services” such as prescription ordering, appointment booking and the e-Referral Service replacement for Choose and Book into an integrated platform that can be accessed through the site by June 2015.
“There’s a tendency to design digital services in isolation without thinking about what happens when someone turns up to the GP practice to do x and y, and what happens between those visits.”
Rowntree said NHS Choices will also host an app store for “high-quality, safe, evidence-based apps that we can say to the users of the website: 'This is something that we recommend and it’s safe to use'."
NHS England is conscious of the need to “look beyond our current profile” for NHS Choices and broaden its audience, she added.
“Our users are predominantly healthy, wealthy mums, and they’re important because they often look after their families, but we can do a lot more to meet the needs of those who are less well off or older.”
Bob Gann, NHS England’s programme director for widening digital participation, said that older and poorer people are disproportionately represented among those lacking digital skills, while one in three disabled people have never been online. “If we’re going to develop a digital revolution in health, we need to do something about that.”
Gann said NHS England is working to build the capacity of all citizens to access information, such as through its work with the Tinder Foundation to train tens of thousands of people each year to use health information online.
Earlier, Paul Rice – NHS England’s head of technology strategy – discussed how national guidelines outlining how healthcare providers should develop “roadmaps” for interoperable digital records will start to take shape next month..
Rice said the preparation of the guidelines is part of work to bring the NIB framework into reality. "We're now at the stage where we're breaking it down into bite-sized chunks."
The NIB framework includes a requirement for all healthcare providers to publish roadmaps by April 2016 outlining how they will adopt interoperable digital records.
Rice said the framework’s focus on interoperability is broken down into a range of different workstreams, including reaching an agreement on the process for generating interoperable digital records; developing incentives and levers for adoption; and providing guidance to commissioners and providers for the production of their own roadmaps.
Developing the roadmap guidelines will provide important information to trusts and other care providers about how they should adopt records, as well as the lessons they can learn from other organisations, he said.
"It will be an opportunity for those organisations who are struggling or challenged by the agenda to see what is being done by the organisations making greater progress and take some lessons from that.
"This isn't about some abstract arrival at the idea of what a roadmap is – we're keen that we pick up on good local examples.”
Rice said NHS England will develop draft guidelines in April, with a final document set to be completed and shared with NHS organisations by June.
The guidelines will set out standards for providers to adhere to while providing flexibility for local organisations and their specific requirements, he said.