Smartphone consultations with GPs in digital health plan

By Steffan Messenger
BBC News

media captionKayleigh Edwards is pregnant and was issued with a mobile cardiotocography (CTG) kit

Patients will be able to consult with their GP using a smartphone and monitor their conditions via mobile apps, as part of a Welsh government strategy.

There will be more opportunity to book appointments online while people will be able to access their health records over the internet.

NHS staff will also be expected to use mobile devices to access, collect and transmit data quickly.

Plaid Cymru welcomed the plan, but warned it would take time to introduce.

Ministers want to put digital technology "at the heart" of NHS care.

Under the five-year strategy, people in Wales can expect to:

  • Connect online with health services - to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions, talk to clinicians for virtual appointments and consultations.
  • Access their health records online - to view hospital appointments or details of GP visits, prescription and test results, and feed in details gathered from other sources such as apps and wearable devices.
  • Use digital tools and smartphone apps to manage their own health - allowing people to monitor conditions like diabetes and asthma. Smart technologies such as sensors in patients' homes will be used to help people live independently for longer.
  • Receive digital reminders and alerts - including medication or exercise reminders, appointment alerts and updates about agreed care plans.

Free Wi-Fi will also be made available at all NHS Wales hospital sites for patients, visitors and staff to use.

Launching the new strategy, Health Minister Mark Drakeford said digital technology was now "an important part of our everyday lives".

"Our vision is for more interactive, personalised health and social services, allowing people to access services wherever and whenever it's convenient to them."

He said patients are often the experts in their own conditions and giving them more control over their care and access to their records could help improve their health.

'Desperately needed'

Tony Rucinski, chief executive of the Board of Community Health Councils, which look after the interests of patients, called the strategy's aspirations "really exciting", but said getting "an awful lot of different organisations" to work together on it would be a "challenge".

"We've got dense population bases, we've got rural communities, we've got challenges where people find it difficult to access healthcare, there are ideas and technologies out there that could transform that, free up resources and get the whole thing working so much better, that's got to be a good thing," he said.

Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd urged ministers to make clear it would take a "long, long time" to make such changes, although he added they would ultimately mean a "more effective service" for patients.

Conservative Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said: "Anything that improves access to GPs and other medical services is desperately needed in Wales but outcomes will only improve if the services are there in the first place."

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