We learned this week that as part of the Conservative election manifesto the party will promise GP access seven days a week by 2020. This is to relieve pressure on hospitals, giving working people access to a doctor at weekends, with family doctors able to consult patients via email and internet video link as part of the plans.
So can this vision become a reality? The intricacies and pressures faced by our healthcare system are vast, but I believe technology will increasingly be an incredibly significant part of revolutionising patient care.
We are already seeing creative businesses working at the cutting edge of their field in mobile technology and app development that have the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of patients using the technology we already have at our fingertips. They are combining creativity and healthcare to prove just how powerful creative businesses can be when it comes to cross-industry collaboration and developing products that extend beyond the creative industries themselves.
Last year Creative England joined forces with a series of healthcare partners, including NHS England, to invest a total of £400,000 in product and prototype development that support a range of health issues.
One of the apps already developed as part of this programme, Yo Help, can be used by young people, their family members, friends, support organisation or GP, to report distress experienced as a result of a long term condition. In addition to helpful contact details and coping mechanisms the app has the ability connect with, and be tracked by, the emergency services should the patient be at a serious crisis point.
Citrus mHealth is another app currently in development for mobile and tablet devices which can track and monitor a patient's condition. Using gamification techniques the patient can record symptoms, functions, exercise and medications, view up-to-date data showing trends and dips in their progress and share information with their doctor.
And it isn't just general health that can benefit from mobile technology. It's not news to us that young people, and not just teenagers, are incredibly tech savvy and use some form of tech every day - in fact a recent Ofcom study found that six year olds have the same understanding of communications technology as 45 year olds. My Avatar & Me is an app that enables young people to express themselves through a fictitious character that they can identify with and use to express how they feel, which can then be shared with health service practitioners such as Counsellors, Health Workers, Clinical and Educational Psychologists.
These are just a tiny sample of projects that are currently being developed by some of the most innovative creative businesses in England. The sheer range of ideas, solutions and applications we are seeing show us there is far more scope to change the way the NHS works than GPs simply using email or Skype. To continue this work and support innovation in healthcare, we recently announced a new £1million fund for regional based SMEs, working in partnership with Nominet Trust and various NHS partners across the regions to develop digital technology to improve patient care and health services.
We will have to wait and see if the Government's vision of patients having access to GPs seven days a week can be made a reality. What I do know without a doubt, is that creative businesses will be a driving force behind innovation and are already a crucial part of the digital healthcare revolution.