How wearables and Wi-Fi could save the NHS billions

NHS England will use technology to help plug a 22 billion funding shortfall, according to its national director for patients and information.

Tim Kelsey believes smarter use of data, upgraded IT and new models of care could save as much as a third of the budget gap predicted to exist by 2020.

"Technology has a hugely important role to play in delivering the health service's productivity challenge," he said.

"Our focus needs to be on how we are going to make the most of this opportunity to solving one of the greatest problems man has ever faced caring for a growing and ageing population."

Patients will have access to their entire health records online by 2018, under plans to harness technology in the NHS.

This will build on the 97 per cent of surgeries that allow people to order repeat prescriptions, view partial health records, and book appointments online the last of which could save 160 million in wasted time caused by missed appointments.

As more services go to the web, people would use the NHS Choices website as a "digital front door" for online services like speaking to their doctor online or via a video link.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health's National Information Board will explore the potential for turning the entire NHS estate into a free Wi-Fi zone.

This would free up administrative burdens on doctors and nurses to spend more time with patients, the NHS believes.

It would also open up the possibility of introducing wearables to monitor patients in hospital.

Benefits could include cutting down on the fifth of diabetes patients who experience hypoglycemic episodes while in care, by catching the early-warning signs.

Kelsey added: "We are in the middle of finding out how man and science can work in harmony through the use of what is called artificial intelligence.

"We have made real progress in openness and transparency and access to data. For the first time last year we published the data of individual surgeons in 12 different specialities. And just two years ago we launched the Friends and Family Test and since then we have received 8.5 million pieces of feedback."

However, the NHS is also experiencing setbacks in its deployment of technology, following the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) admitting the newly-launched e-Referral service had 33 problems.

The service has since been taken offline.

Michael Allen, the EMEA solutions VP for application performance monitoring firm, Dynatrace, said the launch should have been delayed.

"It is much more expensive to fix application problems in the field, rather than in the testing environment not to mention creating more frustration for customers and embarrassment for the organisations responsible," he said.