I’m James, and I’ve been collating data about digital and healthcare services as part of the NHS.UK Alpha project. This post summarises what we’ve been working on and our findings so far.
Why we’re looking at the data
As you’ve seen in previous posts on this blog, we’ve been busy learning about the needs of citizens as well as health and care professionals and building prototypes to understand how to design services and information that meet those needs.
Alongside this work we’ve been trying to understand the size of the opportunity to improve the efficiency of NHS and care services by increasing the take-up and quality of our digital services.
Central government realised savings of £3.56 billion between 2012 and 2015 through digital transformation. During the last parliament, the government pursued a Digital by Default strategy, seeing take-up of digital services increase by a fifth in less than three years, while the average cost per use of a government service fell from £5.00 to £4.30.
The role of digital
Face to face interactions are – and will remain – fundamental to the provision of health and care. However, most people’s current experience of health and care is not just about time spent seeing clinicians.
Much of their time and effort is spent booking appointments, picking up prescriptions, waiting for letters and making phone calls. These interactions are not trivial administration; they are central to the quality and efficiency of the public’s NHS experience.
Making these interactions digital is not a silver bullet to make them better. But we know from our user research that where things can and should be done online, people want this. Therefore, we’ve been collecting data on the usage, quality and digital take-up of common interactions like booking and prescriptions.
We’ve used data from the GDS Transaction Explorer, which contains valuable information about some Department of Health services and combined this with data about services provided by the wider system.
What we found
We began populating key data for each service, including the number of transactions per year, the cost per transaction, and the percentage of these transactions carried out online. After crunching through the data, here’s what we found:
- Health and social care is huge
We identified 200 common interactions provided by the Department of Health, NHS or social care organisations and a further 50 services related to health and care provided by organisations in local or central government. From the data we have so far, we’ve found that these services handle at least 1.36 billion transactions/year.
- The top 5 services make up the majority of transactions
Here are the top five health care services we identified so far:
- Booking a GP appointment
- Test results
- Booking a referral appointment
- Booking a sight test
These five services alone make up more than 90% of transactions (compared with 72% for central Governmental services).
3. There is a big opportunity to increase take-up
According to the data we have so far, less than 10% of health care transactions are carried out online (for central Governmental services, this is 78%).
Both these figures are likely to be overestimates as they are averages of the digital take-up data currently available. Those services without digital take-up data were not included in these averages, and we suspect have either no online equivalent or low digital take-up.
What does this mean?
There is massive scope for more health care transactions to be done online. Even though there are a huge number of services, just making a few high volume services better would make a big impact on everyone’s experience of health and care.
And as we’ve found already, booking is fundamental to health care – 3 of the top 5 interactions relate to booking.
Building on the data we’ve collected so far, we’d like to be able to measure the impact of changes to services, using data to understand what works and how to improve the public’s experience of NHS.UK. This should be open data.
We’ve been thinking about how we can start to measure the quality, costs, performance and take-up of our digital services. We’ll be blogging over the coming weeks with more details on this.