In September, Juliet Bauer was appointed as NHS England’s Director of Digital Experience. Here, she shares her own personal story about why she decided to join NHS England and tells of some of the opportunities offered by information and digital technology in the NHS.
A year ago, I was lying terrified in a hospital bed not knowing how things would turn out.
Not knowing if I would ever get to meet our daughter Sophie. Not knowing if I would survive the life-saving operation I was about to have. Not knowing if three years of operations, bed rest, 14 A&E visits and 9 emergency ambulances would have been worth it.
Today I am sitting at my desk in my new job as Director of Digital Experience for NHS England. But why?
Sophie and I received incredible care from the NHS. Life-saving care for both of us from professionals who knew the best way to the best outcome. But it was clear at many points in the journey that their jobs could have been made much easier, not just for me but for the millions of people who interact with the NHS every day. The doctors’ ability to access previous information about me was not what it should be. Vital data was not collected or connected. Information from all my interactions across the system was not to hand when it was needed. Under pressure, professionals were spending too much time trying to fill the gaps.
Information and digital technology offers the most incredible opportunity for us to create a better relationship between patients and clinicians. A more equal, more sustainable, more rewarding relationship. Every day we experience this in many walks of life. Indeed, for many in their 20s and younger, they will not remember a world that isn’t like this. Good examples of organisations that connect effectively with us are banks and supermarkets. Whether it’s seamless online banking or organising a weekly food shop delivery, they understand our needs and maintain an ongoing personalised relationship.
The NHS has to move faster towards this relationship. If we can create better digital services, tools and communication, we can get where we need to be. If we can apply the principles that many of the worlds’ best digital companies are using every day to the challenges we have, we can get there. If we can take the brilliant things that are being done in pockets across the health system and broaden it out, everyone will benefit. If we can start small and build out in this way, then we can start to do this now.
Above all, if we can trust and empower each other, we can build a future NHS service that our children can be proud of.
Over the next coming months I’ll share more about our plans and progress with you around NHS Choices, NHS Identity and wifi programmes, apps and wearables, personal health records and widening digital participation. Where we’re making real improvements, the differences patients and carers will see and feel and, just as importantly – when and how you can help.