In the same week that the Government has announced it’s Information Strategy with the intention of harnessing “the information revolution to make the best use of evidence and evaluation and support innovative approaches to behaviour change throughout society” the Guardian reports today on how the Department of Health is set to axe HealthSpace (the “free, secure online personal health organiser”) from March 2013 and quotes Dr Charles Gutteridge, NHS Informatics Director, who lays the blame on the secure personal health record project being “too difficult to make an account; it is too difficult to log on; it is just too difficult”.
From a Healthcare IT developer perspective I think this is a very dangerous precedent. The NHS spends a lot of money trying to engage with developers and it’s the lack of structure to announcements like this that leave potential partners thinking they’re going to be much better working with private sector alternatives (eg. Microsoft with their HealthVault offering). Before this information was released the NHS should have at least taken a leaf out of Google Health’s approach and made a more detailed announcement of the changes that were happening and why.
I can imagine this sudden withdrawal is not going to inspire lots of confidence in future NHS digital services amongst patients either. Its a shame as I really hoped the phenomenal success and adoption levels of KP’s mobile accessible service patient portal in the USA (a strategy that could of seen nearly 7 million signed up to HealthSpace by July 2012!) would have put paid to any lingering “we tried it and it doesn’t work” attitudes.
Blaming difficulties seems illogical to me because every single day I see patients doing things that are very difficult. Sometimes I notice them doing things that I would have thought were impossible. The one striking commonality is that they do all these things because they see value in them. Take away that value and they won’t.
HealthSpace never gave value to patients and the Department of Health needs to appreciate that without connectivity an “online personal health organiser” will never be able to communicate a consumer intelligible benefit never mind generating excitement or interest in patients. Fail to see this and it will always remain the equivalent of an accounts spreadsheet compared to an online bank, the paper jotter in comparison to the blog, or the printed photo collection compared to a rich connected Facebook page.
Healthcare is so important that we don’t need to think like pit crews and simply scrap things that don’t work, we need to fix them. We don’t need to build the perfect service, we need to build a service that we can commit to continuing to improve. We don’t need to scrap online personal health organisers we need to add engagement to them so that we can realise the capacity they offer for patients and carers to connect and effectively work together to get results.