A report by the Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health (Digital Coalition) has found patients value the NHS App but not all users are able to access the information they want.

The report is based on a survey of more than 600 people from across England. PIF is a member of the Digital Coalition. Key findings include:

  1. Most respondents are happy to use the app and find it valuable
  2. More training and support is needed to help people use the app independently 
  3. There are issues with accessibility, consistency and skills
  4. Use of the app must be a choice and face-to-face services must be retained

Barriers to use of the NHS App

Barriers to using the NHS App in England were identified by those not using the app, using it infrequently or supporting others to use it. They included:

  • Difficulties accessing the app
  • Issues with the accessibility of information
  • Variability of the information and services provided 
  • A lack of skills and confidence 
  • A lack of motivation to engage with digital healthcare

Concerns were raised about GPs restricting access to information via the app.

This was perceived as gatekeeping which disempowered patients and led to inconsistencies and disadvantage.

PIF director Sophie Randall said: “The results of this independent public survey show that while the NHS App is a valuable tool for many, some people are being left behind. 

"We would like to see an inequalities impact assessment on the NHS App with strategies put in place to support its wider use.

“PIF fully endorses the recommendations to improve the accessibility of the NHS App and provide translation into commonly spoken languages. “

Recommendations for improvement

The report makes a series of recommendations which could be implemented by policy makers and healthcare providers to increase use of the NHS App.

  1. Increasing awareness and promoting benefits of the app more widely
  2. Providing universal access to information to enable all patients to be involved in managing their own healthcare
  3. Making the app easier to access and use
  4. Reassuring people about health data confidentiality and giving them choice of when to share data
  5. Providing a clear path to find help with using the app, including printed materials and in-app support
  6. Providing a clear explanation of the different healthcare apps available and where and when they are used

Recommendations for improving app accessibility and usability include:

  • Making login easier, including settings to ‘remember’ the user
  • Letting people know they can access the app from different devices
  • Simplifying language and improving in-app navigation
  • Translating parts or all of the app into the most commonly-used written languages in the UK

Read the full report via the Patients' Association website here.