A report from NHS England says IT has a role to play in reshaping the health service for the better.
The "NHS belongs to the people — a call to action" report says the major health authorities in England are working together "alongside patients, the public and other stakeholders to improve standards, outcomes and value".
The report says the "digital revolution can give patients control over their own care". It says patients should have the same level of access, information and control over their healthcare matters as they do in the rest of their lives.
It says the NHS must learn from the way online services help people to take control over other important parts of their lives, whether financial or social, such as online banking or travel services.
"First introduced to the UK in 1998, now more than 55 percent of internet users use online banking services," says the report.
A comparable model in health would offer online access to individual medical records, online test results and appointment booking, and email consultations with individual clinicians.
"This approach could extend to keeping people healthy and independent through at-home monitoring, for example". These innovations "would not only give patients more control", they "would also make the NHS more efficient and effective in the way that it serves the public", the report says.
The report adds that 50 existing UK online centres in local settings, such as libraries, community centres, cafes and pubs, are receiving additional funding to develop as digital health hubs. They will help people go online for the first time and use technology and information services, such as NHS Choices, to improve their health and wellbeing.
To support active patients the best quality data must also be collected and made available. "Dramatic improvements" need to be made in the supply of timely and accurate information to citizens, clinicians and commissioners, the report say.
Commissioners can use improved data to better understand how effectively money is being invested. For patients, more and better data will enable them to make informed decisions about their health and healthcare.
In addition, the new Friends and Family Test asks patients whether they would recommend their hospital wards or A&E department to their friends and family should they need similar care or treatment.
Beginning this month, the results will be published on the NHS Choices website. "This is just one example of transparency, which will for the first time allow citizens to compare NHS performance based on the opinions of the patients," the report says.
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