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  • Lloyd Price

Does the NHS App present an opportunity for private providers and their own digital offerings?

Exec Summary:

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of registered NHS app users are over 66. Does this present an opportunity for private providers and their own digital offerings? Three E-vangelists explain why pioneers should be cautious.

The primary reason for caution around that seemingly enticing statistic is also the obvious reason – it is natural that an elderly demographic would be the most prominent users of a public healthcare product . Murray Ellender, CEO at digital triage and remote consultations solutions firm eConsult, tells HBI: “The people who access healthcare tend to be older people. They are being made to use these tools and once they do and it works for them, they adopt them.”

However, it does undermine a traditional assumption – that being it’s only the “worried well” (and largely by definition, the young) who engage with digital tools – particularly health monitoring devices but other digital health offerings too. At the very least it means private healthcare operators could lean more heavily on their own apps.

Lloyd Price, a HealthTech M&A advisor, explains that digital tools have reached the “online banking point – it’s just what you expect”.

He explains: “It’s possible companies could target these apps towards elderly people, but you need to think about digital fatigue and inclusivity. We’re reaching the point where you have an app for everything, but old fashioned methods work very well too. In 2024 we might start to see the rise of digital fatigue – people get a bit fed up with chatbots and just want to speak to human beings for example.
“There are also doubts that the NHS app, while it’s a great success, is really inclusive. You have this idea technology tends to be taken up by higher socioeconomic groups, the more educated, people with smart phones, etc. This may not be exactly the case with the NHS app, but you could still have difficulty accessing it if, for instance, you’re half-blind or if it’s difficult to have private conversations for whatever reason.”

Joe Stringer, executive chair and director of EMEA corporate development at Automata, tells HBI the app itself offers opportunities: “I do actually think the NHS App is a fantastic opportunity for digital health entrepreneurs. It is as close as many will get to having a ‘front door’ to the NHS at real scale, and there is genuine political ambition, strong NHS England leadership and budget to demonstrate it’s value as an access point for the UK population. Provided of course the entrepreneur can demonstrate true value / innovation, hits the key pressure points of the system (electives, financial improvement, workforce shortage) they can capitalise.”

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