Lab Tests Online-UK was recently recommended in a report published on digital technology in the healthcare system by the Nuffield Trust. Entitled “The Digital Patient: Transforming Primary Care?”, the report highlights the current state of digital technology and how new advances within the healthcare setting may help improve the patient experience and other outcomes.
It has been suggested that patients using digital monitoring have better control of their health; and online resources, such as patient discussion forums, can lead to reduced demand for services. Advances in information technology have allowed health professionals to monitor patients remotely and intervene before urgent action is required.
However, there could be real harm if technology is used inappropriately. If data is not recorded accurately this could lead to inappropriate treatment or increased demand for NHS services. Commercial healthcare providers and manufacturers may promote technology which is profitable but not necessarily safe for use by patients. There is also a risk that inconsistent data between patients’ apps and NHS IT systems may impact on patient care.
The report then examines various types of new technology and their potential impact in the healthcare setting.
Online access to records
Patients have had access to their clinical records held by GPs since April 2016. Developing personalised health records held by patients, could allow seamless care across the whole health service. And it is here where Lab Tests Online is featured as an important educational resource to give patients the ability to know what their laboratory tests are and what the results mean.
A study from 2015 identified 165,000 health-related apps. NHS Choices launched a library with a rigorous evaluation process for apps to be included, covering areas of health and well-being such as diet and exercise, as well as resources for specific disorders. Lab Tests Online is also available as an App, and is free to download.
Online triage tools
The first port of call for many patients wanting to know more about their health tends to be “Dr Google”, and this may lead to reduced service demand in some instances. More interactive services offer the ability to decide where patients are best referred. The report noted, however, that current online interactive resources tend to be risk-averse which can actually lead to increased demand.
Online information resources, peer support
Access to online information is improving all the time and there are also a lot of forums where patients can interact with others with similar conditions and circumstances.
Online appointment booking and other services
Online facilities for booking appointments for GPs and in secondary care are already commonplace. The government plans to roll out an integrated service, allowing patients to manage their own appointments for any provider.
Funding is being made available for facilities to enable remote consultations by video and e-mail. Evidence suggests this can improve patient experience.
Wearable technology, such as the Fitbit, can increase patient involvement in their own care. Evidence suggests that devices used by healthcare professionals for remote monitoring of patients with long term diseases result in fewer hospitalisations.
The report concludes by saying that evidence suggests real gains are possible with new technology. However, there needs to be support from within the healthcare system, with professionals recommending devices and how to use them. Health professionals are key to empowering patients to access to their own clinical information in order to encourage shared decision making and better self-care. Technology can also be designed to make it easy for all groups of patients to access, including those who are not very tech-savvy or those with lower literacy levels. Any benefit to be gained will be at a cost and will require funding and support from all levels of the Health service.
At Lab Tests Online-UK, we were very pleased to read the recommendations made in this report. The website aims to improve the health of patients by increasing their understanding of laboratory tests. We aim to be the first choice of patients and patient advocates looking for knowledge about their lab tests across the UK.