A new report backed by Jeremy Hunt has called for the introduction of a “WhatsApp-style” instant messaging service for NHS doctors and nurses.
Written by Conservative MP, Alan Mak, the paper encourages NHS England to work with trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to roll out a “data-compliant healthcare messaging service” that can be accessed by NHS care teams on mobile devices.
Mak’s report, called ‘Powerful Patients, Paperless Systems’, lays out a number of recommendations for NHS England to improve the take-up of new technologies that can empower patients and clinicians while facilitating a paperless NHS.
It argues that digital messaging services are necessary to improve communications within the NHS and discourage the use of commercial apps such as WhatsApp, which don’t meet the required NHS standards for sharing patient information.
The report cites a study from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) which found that roughly a third of doctors used apps like WhatsApp for sharing confidential information, including patient data and clinical information.
“A disturbing number of cases of health workers using apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat have been reported, which has put in danger patient confidentiality,” writes Mak.
“NHS England should ensure that every NHS Trust and CCG implements a data compliant healthcare messaging service which can be accessed by phone or tablet.”
One such service being trialled is medCrowd, an encrypted communications service that facilitates communication within health teams as well as between patients and clinicians.
Founded by Dr Felix Jackson, medCrowd is being used in trials by a primary and community NHS provider in the South East to enable chronically ill patients to engage with their care team.
The report also recommends a new NHS app providing patients with access to their medical data, as well as an “NHS Kitemark” for flag-posting NHS-approved apps to patients.
‘Powerful Patients, Paperless Systems’ also features a foreword penned by Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who welcomes “new ideas from colleagues, including many of the recommendations in this report”.
Hunt adds: “The ‘master-servant’ relationship between doctors and patients is being vanquished by new technology. Control will soon be at the fingertips of patients through smartphones and computers, while clinicians will be granted more freedom and assistance by the technologies at their disposal.
“My ambition is to harness that potential to ensure patients can benefit from a truly digital NHS, ushering in a new era of patient power.”