The Coalition government has today unveiled plans for patients that allow them to book appointments with their GPs online, as well as check test results on the Internet too. Apps for smartphones are to be developed and patients will have access to all their medical records online as well. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said these plans will give patients more power.
Personally, I welcome this move because I tend to use technology every day. I use a smartphone and actually prefer to have most aspects of my life online, from banking to shopping. This move would really hone in the advances in technology and would allow the NHS to become a more accessible part of people’s lives.
I understand the dilemma a lot of patients face on a Monday morning when they have to book an appointment with their GP, often having to spend a considerable amount of time on the telephone trying to get in to see their doctor. In many cases, when individuals do finally get through they are offered an appointment much later in the week, or in some dire cases the following week. My elderly grandmother faces this dilemma each time she has to book an appointment, and to be honest it really isn’t fair. Much like it isn’t fair for people with children to spend so much time out of their day telephoning their local surgery when they really need to be doing much more important things in their lives. In that respect, you’d think that most people would welcome this plan, wouldn’t you?
There are critics of these new plans for the NHS. As ever, we need to look at the positives and negatives of the changes. We might be keen to see the NHS adapt to the 21st century advances in technology, but many patients may not be ready to put their phone down and pick up a laptop. A lot of elderly patients will feel left behind, out of the loop and quite frankly angered by the new plans. In the technologically advanced generation we find ourselves in, are our older generations being left out or should they in fact embrace any future advances in technology?
The government needs to tread carefully when these plans are turned into reality so that users who don’t have Internet access or don’t use smartphones are included and can still easily access their local NHS branches.
It’s not only about being able to book appointments online. Patients will eventually have access to their medical records online, as well as test results being made available online too. This will raise questions about the issue of security for the proposed plans. Is allowing patients’ medical records to be accessed online a good thing, or will it be only a matter of time before hackers make their own plans to sabotage this information?
However, the government plan to enhance the system of booking appointments, they obviously need to take into account people’s views on security and sensitivity about their private information online.
But, to the vast majority of Internet users, who use online banking and enter their bank details online on a daily basis, is it any different accessing your medical records online and having test results sent through cyberspace?