Digital Coalition report highlights limitations of NHS App

A new report from the Digital Coalition has found that while patients in England value the NHS App, some users find the information they can access limiting.

The report is based on the findings from a survey run by The Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health – also known as the Digital Coalition. There were over 600 respondents from across England who completed the survey.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they used the NHS App, with 81 percent of that group saying it was easy to use, and 70 percent agreeing it was a valuable tool. However, picking up on its limitations, 39 percent said they would like to have the functionality to access test results, and 36 percent said they would like the ability to access personal health records via the app, which they were not currently able to do.

Although NHS England is aiming to make such features available to all NHS App users, some GP practices have prevented access to this information.

Nearly a quarter of respondents (23 percent) said they rarely or never use the NHS App due to technical issues, including downloading the app, accessing a smartphone, registering and logging in. Of this group, more than a third (36 percent) said they didn’t want to engage with the technology or see the benefit of using it and would prefer to speak to a person instead.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said:We’re pleased that NHS England has already made some changes to App since the cvoalition ran the survey and hope it’ll use our findings to further improve ease of use and look into reports that some users can’t get the information they want. So it’s important that future development of the App takes into account the barriers this research has uncovered.”

NHS England has recently introduced some new features to expand the functionality of the NHS App. These include estimated waiting times for treatments and prescription details. The latter has already proved popular with 2.7 million people accessing the prescription feature in the first two months since it was introduced.

The Digital Coalition has made several recommendations based on their survey findings. These include raising awareness about the NHS App and providing universal access to information through it. They also suggest making it easier to use, reassuring users about data security, providing clear instructions for using the App, and explaining the various healthcare applications available.

NHS England is responsible for developing the NHS App and is also a member of the Digital Coalition. Dr Vin Diwakar, interim national director for transformation, NHS England,  said: “We are encouraged to see that most people find the NHS App valuable to help them manage their care, or those they help to care for. Valuable insights into the reasons why some patients find it hard to access and use the NHS App, combined with existing research activities, provides us with a solid evidence base to focus our improvements on.”

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