A new digital service that promises to rethink care for long-term conditions and radically change the use of the ‘social prescription’ by the NHS, was officially launched this week at the NHS Expo conference.
HealthUnlocked showcased how using technology they have produced a useful, powerful and personal digital recommendation tool that provides individuals with a social prescription based on a person's long-term condition and location.
Social prescriptions have been in use in various forms throughout the NHS for a few years.
We know that giving people the tools and information to better manage their own health will play an increasing role in improving the outcomes of our population in future
Usually focusing on signposting to community care, this new tool will go much further by providing people with a gateway to information and the support available in their local area from the NHS, social care, charities and voluntary sector.
Additionally, users will be signposted to free peer-to-peer and expert support on relevant HealthUnlocked online communities which are shown to support people to manage their health, use clinical services less, and have more-positive reactions with doctors and health professionals.
The new service is provided through a ‘HealthUnlocked Local’ widget that CCGs can embed into their websites and role out across GPs, community care and hospital provider websites for patients and the general public to use.
The technology uses artificial intelligence, meaning each person submitting their health or wellness condition will receive results relevant to them and the information they have submitted.
The first CCG to go live with this new technology is South Devon and Torbay CCG. It is using the widget on its website and at a number of GP practices with a view to expanding its use across South Devon and Torbay.
This has the potential to prevent unnecessary admissions, taking a load off the NHS and, more importantly, actually keeping somebody safe and feeling good
Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, national medical director of the NHS, said: “The UK has been a powerhouse of innovation in global healthcare.
“We know that giving people the tools and information to better manage their own health will play an increasing role in improving the outcomes of our population in future.
“HealthUnlocked is part of the NHS Innovation Accelerator programme. Together they are an example of how organisations and the NHS can work collaboratively to take technology and make it relevant and adaptable to the individual.
“This has the potential to prevent unnecessary admissions, taking a load off the NHS and, more importantly, actually keeping somebody safe and feeling good.”
Dr Matt Jameson Evans, chief medical officer, added: “By working together with the NHS we are firmly placing technology and the web into a navigator role for people where they have the tools to access support and information directly resulting in better health outcomes.
“We are bringing together the mountain of health and social care service information available, with expertise from patient organisations and expert patients to act as a supporting self-care role to primary and secondary care delivery in the NHS.
“Effective uptake within the NHS, could make potentially massive savings while supporting quality services.”
Paul Hurrell, head of innovation at South Devon and Torbay Vanguard CCG, added: “HealthUnlocked Local will play a critical role in how we will create a system in which our population has the skills, knowledge and confidence to self-manage and to become more active in relation to their physical and mental health.
“We believe it provides us with a unique opportunity not only to provide our population, and workforce, with easy access to tailored information, but also blends into this offer access to physical and virtual peer support opportunities.”
HealthUnlocked is part of the NIA, which was set up to foster the conditions that will accelerate the uptake of innovations that can radically change the way we do things.
In July HealthUnlocked won the NIA Best All Round Progress Award for scaling innovation measured in terms of uptake, population impact, evidence base and engagement of influential champions.