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Blog How the NHS App is upping its game

Susie Day, Programme Head for the NHS App, explains how new features help support patients and clinicians to meet an increasing need for remote access to services during the pandemic and how they will improve healthcare after the current crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to huge increases in the use of public-facing digital health services in the UK.

The NHS App, which has proved itself to be a valuable tool for patients managing their care from home, now has over 1 million users – more than double the number at the start of March.

Susie Day smiling

Every transaction enabled through the NHS App, from self-triage to ordering repeat medications to letting someone see a test result, is saving time for both the patient and the healthcare professional. It also prevents a piece of paper being printed and moved hand-to-hand through the system.

We know from research that there is much more we could do, to make the NHS App more useful to people, and we have been working hard on some new features.


New features in the NHS App

Nominated pharmacies

You can now choose which pharmacy your repeat medications get sent to by nominating it right within the app. Being able to update nominations means a patient  can easily have prescriptions sent directly to the pharmacy closest to home or to a pharmacy that can deliver, helping to reduce unnecessary travel. There have been over 100,000 pharmacy nominations since we enabled this.

Proxy access

We have also made it possible to interact with your GP on behalf of a child or relative. We call this proxy access. By asking your GP to link your profiles in their clinical system, you can switch between profiles in the NHS App to do things like ordering your child’s repeat prescriptions or seeing your parent’s current medications. All of which is saving patients phone calls or trips to the doctor.

Currently, acting as a proxy only works if you are in the same practice as the person your profile is linked to, but we are working on this being available across other practices too.

Some of the interesting design challenges the team had to overcome was understanding the language people use to understand what “proxy” means. We settled on “linked profiles” after research and testing. The team also had to make sure the user understood when they were doing something for themselves versus doing something for someone else by having a clear division of “switching” profiles prompts at the end of each journey, and including a banner and other visual clues in proxy mode.

Image of 3 NHS App screens showing a person's home page, an order repeat prescriptions screen and a prescription ordered screen.

Test results

COVID-19 test results can now also be viewed directly through the NHS App following the recent integration work that has been performed by the testing team at NHS Digital.

Messaging

We have introduced the concept of a messaging ‘hub’ in the NHS App where different types of messages may appear. One of the essential parts of good healthcare is communication between a patient and their practice, so we have been doing lots of work to allow people to do this in the app.

We’ve currently enabled patient-to-practice messaging in two of the GP IT systems in use across England, EMIS and TPP, so where this is switched on by a practice, it’s possible to send messages to your GP from within the app.

The real power of this messaging feature will come once our integrated partners are able to use it as a platform to communicate with patients. By allowing parties such as eConsult or Patients Know Best, access to the functionality, it can be used for reminders for referral appointments and online consultations  -  removing yet more paper and wasted time from the system. This work is under way and we expect it to be available later this year.

NHS app screen displaying GP practice messages and health information and updates screen.

Improving the NHS login journey

The NHS App and NHS login programmes are working collaboratively to look at new and alternative ways we can make registration and proving identity easier, so that all users can make use of the full capabilities of the NHS App and its new features.

In June, we made a change which enabled users to access the NHS App without having to do everything needed for a full ID-verified (IDV) journey, but instead could access the app's information and advice with a simpler NHS number trace. Just over half a million users have now accessed the NHS App this way.

Simplified registration and easier ways of proving identity are key deliveries in our roadmap.

Future strategy and 'service journey rules'

Finally, a word on our approach for the future. In June, Tracy Higgs blogged about online consultations in the NHS App. This work is part of NHSX’s wider agenda for the NHS App to be a platform that enables users access to a series of nationally available services like 111 online, and also provides access to digital services that may be individual to a particular trust or practice at a local level.

We published some information about this approach in February  and engaged with the supplier community that the information is targeted at, just before COVID-19 hit. I’m happy to say we’re picking this up again, so if you commission or supply digital health and care services, please take a look at our strategy, and tell us what you think about our approach and priorities using our short survey


Related subjects

Managing our health at home is more important than ever during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, so we have introduced new features in the NHS App to help. Tracy Higgs, Product Lead for online consultations in the NHS App, explains how her team has made asking a GP for advice through the app available for almost 20 million people.

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Last edited: 28 June 2021 1:25 pm