Technology should play a vital part in helping the private health sector to grow and prosper but “we are a long way from where we should be”, warned Peter Connor, the Managing Director of Healthcode. He urged providers and insurers to collaborate and invest in a central appointment booking system for private patients to match the new NHS E-referral service.
Speaking at the Private Healthcare Summit in London on 23 June 20151, Peter Connor said: “Consumers now expect to find what they want, when it is most convenient for them because a world of different services are now available online, from buying an airline ticket, to booking a tuk-tuk in Bangalore. This shows it’s not just wealthy western corporates who can organise and deliver these online solutions. Every organisation that understands its market is moving in the same direction, including the NHS which provides a range of digital health services for patients.”
“From a healthcare perspective, technology can enhance the experience of patients and it can help our sector operate more efficiently. In fact, NHS England’s National Director for Patients and Information has predicted that the use of technology and data can help plug NHS funding gap of £22bn by cutting out unnecessary paperwork2. There is every reason to think that private providers can streamline their administrative processes and cut costs but we should think big and benefit from the economies of scale. That means working together to agree information standards and a common technology platform for a central referrals and appointment booking solution for patients.”
Last year, Healthcode produced its unique information roadmap for the private health sector, setting out the different types of information that should be available to patients, including an online directory of services, common standards and terminology and Quality and Outcomes information. The company is also providing data processing services to the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) to help it implement the information remedies demanded by the Competition and Markets Authority.
Collaboration was a central theme at the Private Healthcare Summit but Peter Connor expressed concern that some private sector providers and insurers are sitting back or trying to implement their own online booking services, rather than pooling resources to create a viable equivalent of the NHS central system. He concluded: “The private health sector risks stagnation if we don’t reach out to patients. The good news is that electronic billing has proved that a sector-wide approach can work well when needed. Now I think it’s time to cooperate on a single online entry-point to make private healthcare more accessible.”
1Private Healthcare Summit 2015, The Kings Fund, Tuesday 23 June 2015
2Use of technology and data can help plug NHS funding gap, NHS England press release, 17 June 2015