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.”
9 May 2018 @ 08:33
Anything that is implemented needs to be independent of the N3 infrastructure, or at least have the ability to jump outside.
This was proven when Wannacry hit last year and we needed fast, simple and direct communication to our practices who had been told by our CCG IT staff, quite rightly so, to pull the N3 plugs.
That swift action meant we were one of the few counties in England with no infection but left with no fast communication channels.
9 May 2018 @ 09:14
I agree as long as the ‘communications channel’ is more than just a direct connection. There must be a process (protocol) for the communication; ‘who tells whom what and what happens next…etc’. It should not be simply a ‘Houston, we have a problem’ communication.
5 May 2018 @ 22:04
What is the root problem to which WhatsApp or any other technology is the solution? Unless the problem is specified (root cause, not symptoms) clearly, it is unlikely that any solution will work. My view reading about, and being treated by, the NHS is that the communications processes are ill-defined or non-existent. [My treatment, BTW has been exemplary.] Merely connecting the GP with the patient solves nothing unless a protocol (process) for that communication is defined- rather like a network protocol. It must have defined responsibilities, backup, logging, recovery procedures for out-of-line situations, etc etc.
Technology is a tool and any tool is useless unless you have a defined endpoint in mind for it. That endpoint should be defined as a process and that process implemented with the appropriate technology. If that ‘technology’ is a school exercise book and an HB pencil, then so be it. Always put the horse (needs) before the cart (technology); if you define the need/problem (horse), then it will pull the cart (technology). Carts rarely pull horses unless totally put of control.
4 May 2018 @ 22:01
Hmmmm – I just had an overwhelming sense of deja vu … Alan Milburn and Tony Blair telling the NHS to adopt an ebooking system “like Easyjet’s”. How hard could that be?
Everyone’s an ICT expert these days.
3 May 2018 @ 09:56
These ideas aren’t new, its just taken a long time for the NHS (and even it’s staff) to wake up to the fact that they have huge potential in addressing efficiency and patient safety challenges in the NHS. Here is a good summary of how CareFlow Connect messaging is being used by community teams to manage patients with long term conditions http://www.graphnethealth.com/brochures/ . The key thing here is that a really transformative solution needs to do more than just provide messaging, it needs to link into PID, provide web hook/bot type channels to also send alerts from other systems that can drive earlier conversation to manage patients proactively and provide additional team based workflow that links into the patient record.
3 May 2018 @ 13:38
A third party “solution” is not the answer here. Too many third party providers all around when what should be happening is that the clinical systems providers should be doing more to satisfy the needs of the NHS.
There already exists a solution that wouldn’t require yet another app interface / password and username / web address to remember.
2 May 2018 @ 09:41
Why is this even being discussed when there is a solution alredy in use?
NHS.Net email accounts can be linked to Skype For Business (via NHS.Net) which is fully encrypted.
Another complete waste of money when there is already a solution out there.
3 May 2018 @ 09:46
I completely agree. The NHS.net Skype service meets all the mandated governance requirements and can be installed on both NHS and personal devices if the individual user so wishes.
No one in the ‘Centre’ will mandate the use of the NHS.Net service so we end up with disparate email and collaboration solutions and the extra risk/expense.
3 May 2018 @ 17:10
I think the issue here and is the one Jon was alluding to is that communication is a central part of treating patients…sure there may be systems in place that functionally allow secure communication, but if you then have to leave that system, log into another system, bring the patient into context and then ‘do’ something with the patients treatment then surely it makes more sense to use a system that integrates fully into the current treatment pathways – that allows clinicians and care providers to seamlessly communicate about a patients treatment whilst working through the pathway of care?
7 May 2018 @ 07:49
I’m afraid you’ve missed the point Paul (and others). The raw communications ‘solution’ does not address the root cause, which is the consequence of any lack of comms., e.g. wrong diagnosis, late diagnosis, etc etc.
In other words ‘what is the problem to which simple comms is the solution? Is it pure comms or is there a collateral issue with lack of comms?
1 May 2018 @ 17:57
It’s a generic issue, the world becomes a more mobile environment every day and we expect to be able to do everything ‘on the move’. Which is why my company specialises in closing digital information gaps in a healthcare setting. Take a look……www.ascom.co.uk
1 May 2018 @ 16:08
The only way that this could be made compulsory and actually work as intended is if the NHS provide all there health care staff with ‘work phones’ that can only connect to NHS systems with this app pre installed and limit actual phone signal.
But if they can afford to pay for ALL the healthcare workers to have a personal ‘work phone’ just to allow for a paperless NHS then they can afford to pay to fix the healthcare system and improve it.
And just like any Mobile application it can be hacked into no matter how secure their servers are.
Don’t get me wrong I would love to see a paperless NHS but using mobile applications is not the way to go about it.
1 May 2018 @ 14:58
The original report makes interesting reading. It is quite clear that there is a significant amount of “product placement” occuring, and a worrying suggestion that a future NHS app could have an API to allow private providers to create bespoke apps: this seems an opportunity to a) sell NHS data access and b) get it all wrong spectacularly…
1 May 2018 @ 14:36
If you’re a mechanic you need your own tools. What’s the difference?
1 May 2018 @ 14:22
In order for an NHS based app to work it would have to be compulsory but the vast majority of healthcare workers are currently using personal mobile devices for such communications. It is not possible to make something compulsory on a personal mobile. Technology offers massive potential gains for the nhs but not without proper investment and quality systems and implementation.
Carlos Gil Galvez
1 May 2018 @ 18:18
Dave, la diferencia es cualitativa, los médicos no somos mecanicos, somos profesionales altamente especializados en cuidar enfermos complejos en tiempos de vejez. Esa es la gran diferencia, no se si usted es medico o mécanico. Si es usted es médico debe dedicarse a ser mécanico no médico.