Department of Health brandishes iPad but makes no promises

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley attended the launch of a new iPad-based health tracking system in a bid to show government commitment to technological reform in the NHS.

The HealthUnlocked Tracker is currently being trialled at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital  to allow patients to record their progress in real time using an iPad. They can use the same system to track their own progress online once they’re back at home.

According to the Department of Health, the scheme has so far been successful and well received, stating that 300 outpatient slots could be created every year. 95 percent of those asked said they preferred using an iPad to follow progress rather than the traditional paper and pen method.

While this may seem impressive, it’s certainly questionable whether it is just a well orchestrated PR stunt. Waving iPads in front of the transfixed masses to a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ while the NHS crumbles around them.

Lansley highlights a commitment to “creating an environment in the NHS where new medical technologies like this can flourish”. But when TechEye asked the DoH whether the initiative will see a wider roll-out across, the DoH was quick to distance itself from the project.

And we can’t say we blame them, it is certainly a nice idea but in reality who is going to be paying for all that hardware?  Unless it is of paramount importance it’s not likely to be cash-strapped Lansley’s department.

So it was no surprise that the DoH was unable to provide further details of how elements such as funding would work in practice, as it continues a consultation into the way that the NHS will be reformed.

Instead they pointed us toward the makers of the HealthUnlocked Tracker.

A statement from co-Founder Matt Jameson Evans says “our goal is that 50 percent of all UK patients with chronic disease have access to the new online health tracker and manage their progress online by 2016″.

In reality, without commitments that are currently lacking from the government he could be promising 100 percent a week next Tuesday for all this means.

While the DoH tells TechEye that the government has a “commitment to innovation” it is reticent to provide any details, stating that such projects are just examples of “local innovation”. 

With the DoH saying that it will come to conclusions soon, following a long wait, it is questionble whether this particular trial will be replicated any time soon.