The government has unveiled new plans to improve health outcomes and the quality of patient care through digital technology to 2020, which will include the introduction next year of NHS kitemarks for trusted smartphone health apps. 

The vision of the National Information Board - established by the Department of Health and chaired by NHS England’s national director for patients and information, Tim Kelsey - for how technology should work for patients and citizens by 2020 also includes giving everyone online access to the GP records, viewed through approved apps and digital platforms, by 2015. 

And by 2018 they will be able to access to all their health records - held by hospitals, community, mental health and social care services. Details of every visit to the GP and hospital, every prescription, test results, and adverse reactions and allergies to drugs will be available to them at the click of a button. Patients will also be able to record their preferences and thoughts alongside official medical notes.

A national digital standard will be established for people at the end of life, building on the success of Co-ordinate My Care in London, so their care preferences are respected, while digitisation of the Personal Child Health Record – the “red book” – will offer new mothers personalised mobile care records for their child from 2016.

“New mothers will now be able to carry their red book around with them on their smart phone and tablet. This will put an end to worrying about leaving your child’s information at home when going for a review, vaccination or emergency treatment,” said Mr Kelsey. 

The Board also plans for patients to have to tell their story only once; with consent, care records will be available electronically across the health system by 2018 for urgent care services and by 2020 for all services. This will improve coordination of care, particularly for people with complex conditions, it says.

The plan also puts forward measures aimed at encouraging the development of life-saving treatments and supporting innovation and growth. “The NHS has not had a good history as a technology customer or partner. As a result, the UK health and care system is viewed by many as a difficult market,” the Board report acknowledges. Among its proposals are for NHS England and the Department of Health to set up a working group with Genomics England and other scientific bodies tasked with ensuring that the NHS is capable of supported the future agenda on genomics and molecular pathology datasets at scale, building on the current programme to sequence 100,000 whole human genomes.

An industry strategy is to be developed between the Department, industry representatives, the Academic Health Science Networks and Centres and cross-government partners. This will seek to encourage partnership, remove barriers, develop data services to support discovery science and enable real-world evidence to be used to support the discovery and development of new medicines and treatments.

The responsibilities of the various Board members pushing forward the agenda will include a key role for Monitor is setting tariffs, which can be used in innovative ways to improve models of care, such as integrated care pathways. The new National Tariff System will enable future tariffs and payments to be more flexible and enable more cost-effective and efficient care.

And the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will extend its guidance development programmes to further support innovation, says the report.