Speaking at the UK Health Show in London, Juliet Bauer – chief digital officer (CDO) at NHS England – revealed the eagerly-awaited health app would begin closed-doors testing in six regions from 27 September.
The purpose of the beta testing is to help NHS England and NHS Digital identify potential issues with the app and iron out any kinks before it’s made available to consumers at the end of 2018, Bauer said.
The test sites comprise regions in the North of England, the Midlands and East region, and South of England.
They include: Liverpool, Staffordshire, Redditch and Bromsgrove, Wyre Forest and South Worcestershire, Wolverhampton, Hastings and Rother, and Bristol, North Somerset and Gloucestershire.
The CDO of NHS England said it had been “a herculean task” to bring the NHS App to the testing phase.
She suggested this was due to a change in “the culture of how we work” and strenuous efforts to make ensure the app provides a good user experience.
“We want to make it delightful to use,” Bauer said, adding that initial impressions were that the app worked “really, really well”.
Bauer also provided insight into the services the NHS App would aim to offer at launch.
This includes symptom checking and triage; appointment booking; repeat prescription ordering; access to patient records; national data opt-out; and organ donation preference.
The CDO revealed that NHS England and NHS Digital were also looking at how fingerprint scanning could be incorporated into the app, much like on banking and payment applications.
“We’re looking at biometric login simply because it makes it easier to log in to the app,” Bauer offered.
“I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot from the private beta.”
At the core of the NHS App will be NHS login, the new moniker of the NHS’s Citizen ID programme.
Bauer previously suggested that the first NHS login services would appear for testing “within weeks” of her appearance at May’s UK eHealth Week.
It’s unclear whether this deadline was met, although Bauer told delegates today: “These things take more time, but we have to get this right.”
Bauer said NHS login would enable patients to log into a range of NHS and non-NHS services, including digital red books.
The CDO said there could be also be an opportunity for the NHS login to provide a jumping-off point for other NHS digital services in the future.
Bauer claimed there were 80 such digital services “in the pipeline for testing” which could use the login service.
“We think we are creating a platform from which we can do many things if we want to,” she said.
“It’s not us trying to do everything, it’s about having that underpinning platform from which we can do other digital tools.”
Day one of the UK Health Show included an appearance by the NHS Digital CEO, Sarah Wilkinson, who proffered that healthcare was “entering the self-service era”.