A new NHS patient website, NHS.uk, will track users’ browsing history and location to provide them with personalised health advice.
Speaking at a London healthcare event last week, NHS Digital’s digital transformation director Beverley Bryant revealed some further features on the long-gestating NHS.uk project.
These would include providing people with more personalised health advice than the current “flat” information provided by NHS Choices, Bryant said.
“If we can use location, time and cookies and history to provide content to people then it’s likely to be more relevant to visitors, and they are likely to come back for more information.”
People would have to opt-in to provide any of their personal information, location and browser history, she said.
“There is no question that will do anything about them, with them, or for them, without their explicit consent.”
Responding to growing privacy concerns expressed about the plans on Friday, NHS Digital clarified that only browser history within NHS.uk would be tracked, providing consent was given, not wider internet browsing.
Bryant said users that went a step further to register, would have access to a personal health record.
This would allow them to perform transactions, such as booking appointments and repeat prescriptions, access medical records and upload their own app and wearable generated data.
“By giving people more control…we think that people will be able to make more informed decisions.”
“But once we’ve persuaded them, that’s when we can start to make it personal, so that they get an aggregated view of their health; the last time they came, what is the information they asked for, a record of an appointment.”
In a statement, NHS Digital said that NHS.uk, the NHS Choices successor that will host a personal health record, will be rolled out in Autumn 2018. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously said he intended to launch a personal health record in September 2017.
A beta version of NHS.uk is already live and being tested with users.
“Content development is ongoing and we hope to go live with the enhanced site by Autumn 2018,” a spokeswoman said.
NHS.uk is central to the Government’s latest push for more personalised care enabled through digital tools, as part of the ‘Personalised Health and Care Framework 2020’ framework.
Under the proposals, NHS.uk will host a personal health record, and online NHS 111 tool, and revamped app library.
The theory is that giving people access and control to health information will increase self-management, reducing the burden on the NHS.
Ambitions to provide a national NHS online personal health record and associated transactional services stretch back more than a decade.
However, previous attempts have been hampered by funding constraints, information governance concerns, and an unenthused public.
Speaking to the House of Lords’ Long-term NHS Sustainability Committee in December, health secretary Jeremy Hunt again committed to rolling out an online personal health record in 2017.
“We will have a system where you can go online and identify yourself online without having to go to your GP surgery. That will be very significant, because people will be able to download their record on their phone.”
However, not everyone is convinced that giving people more access to health information will help save the NHS.
Speaking at the same event as Bryant, Paul Cundy, chairman of the Royal College of GPs’ IT Committee, said better patient access to information did not reduce demand.
“Adding a new service simply increases workload.”
Cundy said despite more than a decade “flogging the dead horse” of personal health records, patients were not interested.
“Generally, patients do not want access to all of their records. What they want occasionally is access to some part of their record some part of the time.”