Harnessing the power of digital technology in the NHS
It's incredible to think about how much digital technology has transformed – and continues to radically shape – modern life.
Take mobile phones. Believe it or not, today's smartphones are millions of times more powerful than the computers used by NASA in 1969 to first put men on the moon.
To some, this may not come as a huge surprise; but it does demonstrate significant technological progress – and the infinite potential for the future.
Healthcare is no exception, with technology and pioneering research continually opening up new possibilities for prevention, treatment and care.
In Southwark, we're well aware of the opportunities that digital services present – particularly with more people embracing technology.
According to the Office for National Statistics, almost 99% of all 16-44-year-olds in the UK have been online recently, and the number of older people using the internet continues to rise – with 83% of 64-74-year-olds logging on.
Consequently, we're working hard to integrate digital technology into our local NHS services to improve access, empower people to take control of their health and wellbeing, and reduce workloads for NHS professionals.
For example, people in Southwark can now go online to contact their GP and get advice or treatment, simply by visiting your GP's website.
All you need to do is fill in a simple online form and you will get a reply within 48 hours. You can do this anytime, anywhere using your phone, tablet or computer.
There's also a helpful symptom checker and self-help guide, which will point you in the right direction for the most appropriate NHS service.
Or, if you love smartphone apps, you can download the new NHS App, which allows users to book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, view your medical records and access other health services like NHS 111 online.
Again, there's a symptom checker which can help make sure you get the right support from the right NHS service, in as quick a time as possible.
To get started, all you need to do it go to the Apple or Android app stores on your smartphone or tablet, search 'NHS App', download it and follow the on-screen instructions.
Better digital access does not only improve access to services, it can also help ease some of the pressure on GP surgery reception desks and phone lines – freeing up more time for those patients who prefer more traditional methods of communicating with their GP.
We want technology to complement, rather than replace, the personal care that we know our patients want and value.
By harnessing the power of digital technology, we can keep pace with modern life and make sure the NHS continues to deliver for patients – both today and 50 years from now.