Comms and the NHS’s digital transformation

Ahead of his appearance at the CIPR’s National Conference, Director for Digital Development for NHS England, Dr Sam Shah, discusses how new communications technology is helping the NHS improve patient care.

The NHS is using information and technology to empower and transform people’s lives, and as a result, the way we communicate with people is changing. The upcoming CIPR conference will give us a chance to discuss and consider the opportunities social media and sentiment analysis provide, as well as the crucial importance of effective communications in health and care more generally.

The digital revolution in the NHS is alive and kicking. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has recently released a future vision for digital, data  and technology in healthcare.We have already made significant progress. The NHS App will provide a simple and secure way for people to access a range of health services, including managing appointments and viewing their health records. Digital tools and services will transform health and care for the entire country, connecting people to the health and care they need – when they need it. This will enable and empower people to better manage their own care, relieving the pressures on frontline services.

Imagine a world where health can be transformed through big data and prediction analytics – people will be able to anticipate how health they will be in the future, or how they will respond to a particular medicine or operation. As a result, they will be able to make better informed decisions about their lifestyles and health choices.

We recognise that digital technology and healthcare is growing exponentially, and expectations of services are changing. The NHS wants to provide the best service for people, so we are looking at different ways of communicating to ensure we meet people’s needs and expectations, improve their access to and experience of care, and fundamentally improve their health. We are offering clinically assured online health advice through the NHS website (which has approximately 40 million visits per month), online GP consultations and access to health apps which allow people to manage conditions such as diabetes. We are also delivering targeted health prevention campaigns across social media.

This new wave of social marketing and its use of influencers has created a need for health leaders with media skills and knowledge. The media coverage surrounding Stephen Fry’s prostate cancer diagnosis led to a surge of people being tested for cancer, and an unprecedented increase of hits on the relevant NHS.UK webpage – an encouraging sign that people are taking the initiative to check their risks for conditions. Social marketing gives us an opportunity to raise awareness and reach more people with messages at a faster rate than ever before. Through better use of analytics, we can get more adept at predicting demands on services.

More people than ever are engaging with online health communities: sharing experiences and health issues. Sentiment analysis can play an important role in revealing how satisfied people are with NHS services; as well as showing the reasons behind their feelings. These opinions are crucial.

If we understand how people feel regarding their condition, treatment and experiences of the NHS, we can target areas for improvement, and look to develop policies and modifications that could directly address problems. The key to our communications is taking a wide variety of approaches: ensuring messages can be received and accessed quickly, and easily. As we continue to perfect this, we can help people to become healthier and stay well.

To hear more from Dr Shah book now for the National Conference on 29 Nov – https://www.cipr.co.uk/nationalconference.

Image courtesy of pixnio

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