I had an opportunity to speak with NHS National Director for Patients and Information Tim Kelsey, who will be speaking at the at the Health 2.0 7th Annual Fall Conference on Monday, September 30th.
HM: Can you tell us a little bit about your vision for open data, transparency and participation. How do you believe this will actually transform the NHS?
TK: I believe that if we can create an environment in the health service in which data and information can freely flow, it will improve the quality of patient care because it will give doctors, clinicians and patients the tools they need to measure the quality of care in their environment. It also gives patients the opportunity to make more decisions themselves, of benefit to people with long-term conditions who may want to take more control of their own care, but also of benefit to people who want to look after their health and well being, and avoid interaction with the health services altogether.
HM: You often make reference to the ‘internet banking revolution’; how can this be applied to healthcare and how will actually benefit patients?
TK: In pretty much every area of our lives, digital technology has transformed the way we do things. A combination of transparency of data and our ability to participate with it to do things, has resulted in a revolution in the quality of customer experience, and so too has the cost of providing this service been reduced. It is not a perfect example – banking is not the same as healthcare – but at least it gives us an insight into what is possible. The story of online financial services in the UK started back in 1997 when online banking was launched. Those old enough to remember it will know just how skeptical the public were of doing their banking online. The issues of trust back then I think are to some degree comparable to healthcare today. Anyway, today in 2013, more than 22 million adults in this country only do online banking. It has been a phenomenal social shift. If you ask me what are the most important social transformations of our time, it was through a combination of been given access to our own data transparency and the ability to transact with it (pay our bills, and so on), participation, that that revolution was effected.
HM: To what extent do you see the patient influencing these kind of changes in the NHS? How do we encourage patients to embrace this?
TK: We in the NHS in England have a massive financial problem – and we are not alone, it is a problem that afflicts most healthcare systems. In the UK it has been estimated that over the next five to ten years we’re going to have a deficit of around 30 billion pounds in the cost of providing health care. We need to do something different to find new ways of creating better value for patients in healthcare. A model that stands out and suggests a new way forward is to get the patient – the customer – to do a lot more for themselves. We need to unleash the power of patients, get them managing their own health and healthcare, making the health service more effective by telling it how they want services to be delivered, and how they can be delivered more efficiently.
HM: Currently on the market there is software that can help patients take control of their own healthcare, such as online CBT, mobile dermatological screening, tracking systems that monitor conditions such as diabetes and Parkinson’s and can be shared with the clinician. Some of these have been clinically tested and piloted within the NHS, yet they are still not available on the NHS. Why is this?
TK: There are two big initiatives that we are now launching in England: the first is to make tools and information services much more available for the public. NHS Choices, the NHS online digital platform, has around 30 million visitors each month, a huge volume of people seeking better access to health information and we need to make that into a platform through which all sorts of tools and services can be delivered to them. We will be re-launching Choices in November. The second thing is to ensure high quality online open data about health service is published so that more tools and services can be developed. This is important because if there is no data about maternity services, you cannot develop tools and help more mothers-to-be make better decisions about their health and services. So it is a combination of the data and tools and services, which is important.
HM: Do you have any advice for health entrepreneurs? How can you make it easier for them to work with the NHS. What should they be doing and how can they get their products out there and seen by the NHS?
TK: The public service does many good things in health care. It saves peoples lives, helps people to get healthy. But what it has never been good at is engaging with the public and the patients. We need entrepreneurs to be given the opportunity to promote their tools and services to anyone who is interested. So a very important part, possibly the most important part, is to stimulate the market place so that independent entrepreneurs can easily find access to different patient care holes, different groups of the population who will benefit from the tools and the initiatives they are providing.
HM – Do you envisage doctors prescribing apps as well as antibiotics in the future?
TK – Throughout the journey of a patient’s health and wellness, doctors will absolutely be prescribing information services or one tool or another. It will become part of the armoury available to a physician, a fundamental offer to a patient, that not only will they get medicines and treatments, but they will also get information and tools that will help them better take control of their condition, and ensure that there is transparency in the way that way are treated.
TK – Health 2.0 is just fantastic, I’m behind any kind of movement that harnesses and showcases innovation in healthcare. Health 2.0 conferences happen all around the world and I am really hoping that Health 2.0 London will become a regular event where people can come and demonstrate what they are doing, whether they are for profit or not for profit, whether they are in the public service or the private sector. In terms of developing tools and services for patients and professionals, there has to be a collaboration. It is about developing a social movement around the data that the health and social care system is producing. Unless we can create the kind of excitement and imagination as seen at Health 2.0 events, we’re not going to succeed.
To find out more about speakers and demos, check out the Health 2.0 London Conference.
Harriet Messenger is a journalist at ZPB Associates.