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Just Digital Patient Engagement Or Full Active Participation?

Just Digital Patient Engagement Or Full Active Participation?

Patients should have access to their medical records online by 2018. By 2020, this should have evolved into a digital patient engagement solution as health and social care achieve “paperless at the point of care” working practices. But is it just about engagement, or should we prepare more for active participation and ownership of health concerns and issues?

Digital Transformation of Service Delivery

A common concern is that the NHS 2020 Digital proposals are still not making adequate plans to exploit the opportunity provided by the Internet of Things (IoT), Wearables, and Assisted Living technologies as soon as possible.

The current focus is on resolving internal data integration/flow issues and acknowledging that clinical and information governance concerns and care benefits also need to be addressed. But these, in the main, deliver service quality and improved workflow for people already in the system. Their support for delivering a transformed, more sustainable service delivery model is limited.

Transformation of the service delivery model and improvement in the future sustainability of any significance for health and social care depends mainly on the digital patient engagement (or better – participation) and capabilities delivered by technology innovation incorporated to support pro-active participation. The opportunity and benefits potential is significant when the service delivery model evolves from a largely reactive and, after the fact, to an alternative and more sustainable pro-active and well-being-orientated model.

These benefits will only be enhanced by integrating and exploiting technology innovations and automation delivered by IoT, wearables, assisted living and health and care/well-being monitoring innovations and solutions. Adoption of these technologies will increase as they become more capable. With this increase, the range of proactive information and data-supporting opportunities for further cost-saving interventions and/or preventions will also increase.

Data Governance and Management

Consequently, the long-term objective of any digital health and care engagement solution should be about providing the means to help us live well and, if we are unfortunate enough to have one or more long-term chronic conditions or disability, to be empowered to manage our situation as much and as well as we can. It is never thought about us as individuals; we care for or are cared for by somebody else. So we should be able to access others’ information, too.

All of the above inevitably leads to an explosion of information becoming available and of the most personal and sensitive kind! Consent and data ownership/management quickly become the most important considerations in any engagement solutions design, which must be open to accommodate future technology innovations delivering on the pro-active health and well-being opportunity.

However, it is widely acknowledged that local developments and deployments are not being guided by the core common engagement and consent model or universal data flow/integration standards of concern. Consequently, progress toward a better health and care model continues to evolve, with massive variations in capability delivered differently across regions.


Until the need for core common standards on data consent, governance, and interoperability is fully addressed, the participation of patients and citizens with digital solutions will likely remain inhibited. Subsequently, the opportunity to achieve the £20b of universal benefits from a transformed service delivery model by 2020 will very likely remain an elusive and much less assured target than it could otherwise be.

References and Links

Article produced in response to news item Health wearables firm Fitbit holds talks with NHS published by Digital Health.

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