An app that will change healthcare

By Simon Gentry

I first read about the new app in passing in an article about something completely unrelated.  A few weeks later a friend mentioned it again. I thought at first that they meant the NHS Covid-19 App which I downloaded, as you did probably, to scan QR codes when going into a pub or restaurant last year.  It’s the app that warns you if you’ve been exposed to someone with Covid.  But no, the app I’m referring to is a new NHS app which has been released into the world with almost no fanfare and virtually no media attention. I believe it will change healthcare in Britain for everyone, forever.

To download the app you simply go to your favourite app store, search NHS app and it will appear.  You will be asked to confirm your name, NHS number, date of birth and address an prompted to set a password.  One person I know who doesn’t have their NHS number was asked to take an image of their driving license.  Once your identify is confirmed, you’re registered and you can then have access information that was until now usually the preserve of your doctor plus a range of other services.

Under ‘Popular services’ you will see a tab that allows you to share your Covid-19 status.  When you open that tab a QR code is generated that would allow an immigration officer or an electronic gate to read the fact that you’ve been vaccinated.

The next tab allows you to see when you were vaccinated, the manufacturer’s name and the batch number.

In the following tab you can read messages from your doctors, consultants or GP practices.

The ‘Linked profiles’ tab allows patients to share their medical records with family, healthcare support workers and of course GPs and consultants.  I understand that emergency workers or paramedics may be able to access your health records if necessary to check whether their proposed treatment could cause complications.

The next tab has your GP health record, your date of birth, your address, any allergies or adverse reactions and all the medications you’ve been on, whether they were acute, repeat or have been discontinued.  Until now, I’d never seen that list.

The final tab allows you to order repeat prescriptions.

Released quietly, with little or no fanfare the potential of this app to enhance healthcare is immense.  For one thing it puts patients in a far stronger position, able to see what information the health service holds about them. It will also revolutionise research, because by allowing patient records to be updated quickly and electronically, it will allow researchers an insight into the whole population, enabling them to gain insights that will never have been possible before.

Data privacy campaigners may suck their teeth about the app, and with good reason, but I for one am delighted with it.