Digital technology puts people in control of their health and social care

People will be able to have a consultation with their GP using a smartphone and monitor their own health via digital devices as part of a new strategy to put digital technology at the heart of Wales’s health and social care system.

As part of a new Welsh Government digital health and care strategy unveiled today by Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford, patients will also be able to access their own health records, book appointments and order prescriptions online, and use mobile devices to monitor long-term health conditions.

Welsh NHS and social care staff will be given access to the latest technology to access an up-to-date record of care for their patient or service user.

‘Informed Health and Care: a digital health and social care strategy for Wales’ sets out the Welsh Government’s five-year vision for the use of digital technology within both the Welsh NHS and in Wales’s social services. It builds on the success of the existing national ICT programme.

Under the strategy, people in Wales can expect to:

Connect online with health services to book appointments online, order repeat prescriptions and use the internet, email and video conferencing to connect with clinicians for virtual appointments and consultations in a way that suits them, potentially reducing delays and costs to the service and service users. Free Wi-Fi will also be made available at all NHS Wales hospital sites for patients, visitors and staff to use.

Access their health records online to view their hospital appointments or details of GP visits, their prescriptions and test results; to add to their information, feeding in details they may have gathered from other sources, such as apps and wearable devices and record their preferences and thoughts about their care alongside their official notes. This will enable people to play a more active part in developing and improving the quality of their information and support them in managing their own health and well-being, in line with the principles of Prudent Healthcare.

Use digital tools and smartphone apps to manage their own health and well-being and live independently, allowing people to routinely monitor their own conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, and daily tasks. The use of smart technologies and assistive technologies, such as sensors in people’s homes, will support more people to live independently for longer.

Receive digital reminders and alerts about personal health and care, including medication or exercise reminders, appointment alerts and updates on where people are in their agreed care plan.

The strategy also sets out a vision where health and social care professionals have access to the digital tools in their workplace that they need to deliver safe, high-quality, efficient care.

Health and care staff will:

Use technology routinely in all care settings to support them to do their jobs effectively: staff working in busy, often pressurised, hospital environments, or remotely in community settings and people’s homes will be able to access, collect, validate and transmit data easily and quickly using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and use other data-entry approaches such as voice recognition.

Have access to an up-to-date record of care for their patient or service user, which must be accessible wherever and whenever it is needed, in the hospital, the community, GP surgery or in the home, and focused on the individual and not the disease, service or organisation where the care is being provided.

Launching the new strategy, in his capacity as Health and Social Services Minister, Mark said:

“The new digital health and care strategy I am launching today sets out our clear ambitions for far more digitally-enabled health and social care services in Wales.

“Digital technology is now an important part of our everyday lives. We use it at work, to shop, to bank, and to keep in touch with family and friends. Our vision is for more interactive, personalised health and social services, allowing people to access services from wherever and whenever it’s convenient to them.

“Giving people more control over their care and access to their records is an important part of the notion of co-production – the recognition that health outcomes are maximised when the contribution of patients as well as practitioners is captured and put to work.

“Frontline staff who work in our health and care services must also have access to the very latest digital technology, which allows them to deliver services in new, innovative ways, that put the needs of patients first.”

Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, said:

“It is vital that we enable patients and carers to be able to look after their own health and access advice and care when they need it. Digital technology and better data can help to improve quality and outcomes of care.”