Digital Health Jargon Buster – commonly used terms you’ll be hearing more10th February 2020
Both NHS and the UK Government are looking to change the way that British healthcare works for millions of people. Not only is there going to be a major push for more sensitive care of patients, but NHS bosses are keen to address the many challenges the service is facing.
Regular publishing of new documents (white papers, green papers, policies, amendments, blogs, etc.) are littered with what can seem like jargon. There are several phrases and countless acronyms that might leave you wondering what exactly is the meaning behind them.
We have compiled a list of commonly used terms that are frequently misused in blogs, tweets, comments, and emails on the subject. If you are in healthcare, in particular the NHS, you will be seeing and hearing more of these phrases over the next few years.
Starting with the basics – ‘digital’ is a term that is generally used to refer to anything which makes use of technology. Therefore, in the context of the NHS, there are moves to help bring much of British healthcare onto digital platforms. For example, people could access diagnosis systems through their smartphones or their computers.
Digitally Enabled Healthcare
This is the overall term in use for streamlining the NHS through technology. When NHS bosses talk about DEH, they are looking at ways in which patients can access the services they need through clearer channels. For example, a patient could access their own file and prescription record through a smartphone or tablet. They could even speak to a GP or nurse through a webcam. DEH is a catchall term for any projects which use technology to help streamline the NHS operation.
Shared Responsibility for Health
This term is the most used phrase in UK healthcare for 2020/2021. It already occurs frequently in the NHS Long Term plan and its associated documents.
As you may have guessed, ‘shared responsibility for health’ refers to sharing the burden for an individual’s health. The share is partly given to the patient themselves and partly given to partner agencies and the local council.
In terms of the patient taking some responsibility, this could be in the form of their diet and exercise and some basic monitoring of vitals, like heart rate and blood pressure.
In terms of partner agencies and council, this could be in the form of accredited Mental Health charities working in the community or the local authority making some reasonable adjustments at the patient’s home or council buildings.
Digitisation, or digitalisation, refers to moving traditional methods over to a new, technological standard.
For example, instead of checking in to A&E with a member of staff over the reception desk, a patient could use their healthcare app to check into A&E giving a brief description of symptoms.
Since the patient app and the hospital system talk to each other, the process is fast, free of human error, and does not run the risk of a data breach when a patient’s personal details, such as a home address, are overheard by others in the waiting room. It also eliminates any stresses that can sometimes be felt when trying to explain an medical emergency over the desk.
The NHS Long Term Plan
Sometimes shortened to LTP, this plan outlines how the NHS intends to hit targets over the next six to seven years. The LTP is the framework of the government’s strategy to improve public healthcare in the UK and has an increase in funding linked to the targets it has set out.
NHSX is an organisation that brings together professionals from the UK Government, Social Care and the NHS with the intention to drive the digital transformation. Their responsibility includes leading on policy, implementation, and change.
As the term suggests, this is the experience of the patient moving through the healthcare system. This has been counted to different degrees for years but user experience (or UX) is set to become a focus by which the NHS will be measured by and is one of the targets from the LTP that has funding increases linked to it.
This concept is linked to the patient experience. Outcomes are essentially the result of treatment.
The data is very important for the running of the NHS as it confirms the investment in medical procedures or medicine as well as promoting the health of the public at large.
Remote access, in the context of the NHS and the healthcare sector, refers to how patients can receive care without physical contact with a medical professional. For example, they may be able to remotely access their patient records, or request a repeat prescription.
Remote access also covers appointments with a GP via webcam/video call or telephone advice on symptoms (such as the current NHS non-emergency number – 111). The term also includes authoritative reading material from trusted sources.
Emerging Health Needs
Coronavirus? Prominent in the media, a health emergency in China very quickly becomes a serious situation in the North West of England as expatriates are brought home and quarantined at Arrowe Park Hospital. Just one example of how you cannot plan for everything.
Other matters you can plan for however, as trends have been identified over a period of time and show that there is a potential crisis on the horizon. One of the most concerning trends that has been clearly marked as an emerging health need is the mental health of young people.
Complicated requirements for dealing with matters such as mental health mean that long term planning is crucial. Resources, facilities, staff, and policies have to be put in place, such measures take time.
Whereas an ad hoc quarantine located near to world-class expertise (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine) is something that can be set up rapidly for the short-term, a crisis of mental health cannot be dealt with as part of a public health contingency plan. It requires infrastructure, specialist training, and facilities. This is why keeping an eye on emerging health needs is so crucially important.
Health inequalities are issues that the NHS is always poised to fight against. Inequalities are those which put specific groups of people at a disadvantage. For example, people from a specific background or with a specific condition may not be able to access as good a healthcare service as those from other backgrounds.
This is a complex topic, but it is one that impacts heavily on the future of the NHS. By digitising services the NHS is keen to help treat everyone on the same level. Health inequalities are avoidable gaps in standards that, with the help of technology, may now be fillable.
Population Health is a term that can be quite confusing – as it is sometimes used in different contexts to mean different things. However, it is generally used to describe the health of the population as a whole. It can also be used in the place of the term ‘public health’, which some people believe to be outdated. In an NHS context, Population Health refers to strategies that bosses and healthcare managers use to help improve health standards for the wider community.
Populations covered under this term can vary in terms of size and location. For example, it could refer to the whole of the country, or to small communities in the North or South. Regardless, the term works to cover a large group of people, not just select fringes.
In the context of the NHS and healthcare, interconnectivity often refers to the way that devices and systems communicate with each other. For example, a piece of diagnosis software could communicate directly with the patient’s GP’s computer as well as with partner agencies (such as McMillian if appropriate) and the patient’s own NHS app on their smartphone.
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