NHS hires Martha Lane Fox to boost patients’ use of digital technologies

Baroness of Soho will develop proposals on improving digital adoption for NHS users

Martha Lane Fox

Martha Lane Fox, the founder of Lastminute.com, is to examine how the NHS can boost adoption of digital technology among patients.

The former government digital champion was asked by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to develop a set of proposals ensuring take-up of technology ranging from wearables to Wi-Fi will succeed among patients.

Hunt said: "If we are to embrace the potential for technology to shift power to patients, we need patients to be willing and able to harness that technology. Digital inclusion is as vital in healthcare as everywhere else - not least because some of the greatest impacts of new technology in health is with the most vulnerable patients.

"I have therefore asked Martha Lane Fox to develop some practical proposals for the NHS National Information Board before the end of the year as to how we can increase take-up of new digital innovations in health by those who will benefit from them the most."

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Lane Fox, who holds the title of the Baroness of Soho, responded on Twitter to say she was looking forward to it, adding "massive gains for vulnerable patients + frontline staff I think".

Her proposals will be taken on by the National Information Board (NIB), as it works to boost digital inclusion as part of its Personalised Health and Care 2020 programme.

NHS England believes technology could make up a third of a 22 billion budget shortfall projected for 2020.

NIB will look into introducing Wi-Fi across the entire NHS estate for doctors, nurses, staff and patients, while wearables could catch symptoms in people with diabetes.

However, the NHS has also experienced problems in its attempts to introduce technology to patients care.data, a scheme to share patients' medical records among GP surgeries around the country lacks public trust.

Despite the service being trialled in GP surgeries around the country, a government watchdog recently listed it as one of 20 projects deemed to be failing in 2014-15.

Nevertheless, NIB chief and NHS England's director for patients and information, Tim Kelsey, welcomed Lane Fox's involvement.

He said: "The NIB really looks forward to working with Martha on how best to support patients and citizens take up new digital innovations in health and care. 

"Everybody who wants to take advantage of new opportunities offered by technology to improve their health and wellbeing - and to support themselves when they are ill - must be able to do so."

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