Baroness Martha Lane Fox has laid out her digital proposals for the NHS, including ensuring that every building in the health service has free wi-fi.
The former UK Digital Champion was commissioned by health secretary Jeremy Hunt to look at ways in which there can be more digital inclusion across the NHS.
Fox says that free wi-fi will allow patients staying in hospital to self-monitor their conditions using apps, maintain contact with social networks that can support recovery and help them to stay in contact with family and friends. It could also reduce the administrative burden on doctors, nurses and care staff, freeing up more time to be spent with patients, and enable safer working practices such as e-prescribing.
“One of the founding principles of the NHS was to ensure that everyone – irrespective of means, age, sex, or occupation – should have equal opportunity to benefit from the best and most up to date medical and allied services available,” Fox added.
The baroness is also recommending that those with the most health and social care needs, who are often the least likely to be online, are included first in any new digital tools being used across the NHS and that digital skills are cultivated among the NHS workforce.
In addition, at least 10% of registered patients in each GP practice should be using a digital service such as online appointment booking, repeat prescriptions and access to records by 2017. Earlier this month it was reported that patients are already on course to arrange more 10 million appointments and order more than 15 million prescriptions online in this financial year.
Dr Imran Rafi of the Royal College of GPs, commented: “In the 21st century we can’t ignore the importance of embracing new technology. The proposals outlined today will help us to use technology in the best interests of patients – we hope that equal focus will be given to general practice as well as hospitals.
“GP practices have been at the forefront of using technology to improve patient care, for example through pioneering electronic patient records. However in some areas of the country, particularly in remote and rural areas, access to technology is severely limited and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”