The UK’s national health care system, the NHS, and information technology don’t necessarily go well together. There have been numerous instances in the past when the massive organization fell victim to computer malware thanks to using outdated and insecure operating systems.
And only this week, something described as “a horrendous breach of privacy” occurred in one of its clinics, when emails of thousands of patients were disclosed.
This is not to say that the NHS shouldn’t push forward with “digitization” – on the contrary. But given its track-record, including using Windows XP when it was hit with WannaCry ransomware in 2017, the service’s priorities might seem a little suspect.
On the other hand, considering that losses from the WannaCry event cost the NHS somewhere in the region of $100 million, spending $8 million (££6.4 million) on developing an app that would allow patients to communicate with doctors, book appointments and order prescriptions seems like minuscule expenditure by comparison.
The Register writes about this effort, revealing also that the NHS is now asking health professionals to go on major social media platforms and promote the app by putting on their influencer’s hat.
England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May is quoted as saying that the organization wants “next generation of health care tech” to be promoted online by its “extraordinary staff.”
But the article suggests that this staff might be of better use serving patients than promoting tech gimmicks – considering “the shortage of doctors and nurses, the social care crisis, and escalating waiting times.”
At the same time, one would assume that at least all those Windows XP computers have been replaced by now – because the UK government plans on spending over $300 million (Â£250m) on an Artificial Intelligence (AI) lab for the NHS.
When reports about this came out last month, there were concerns that money needed elsewhere might instead be spent on “tech for tech’s sake,” the Register said, but also quoted one doctor as expressing concern about the type of data the lab would use, and how they would go about it.
“All the news around DeepMind and the Royal Free Trust doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in governance and consent. Will they respect people’s rights?,” wondered Dr. Neil Bhatia, referring to the controversy surrounding Google’s deal with the Royal NHS Trust, disclosed in 2016, that gave the tech giant access to confidential health data found in 1.2 patient records.