Keeping up with tomorrow’s world: integrating with the NHS App

With the UK’s population continuing to grow and life expectancy increasing, already stretched NHS resources are being spread even thinner.

The challenges are clear: advances in medicine and technology mean we’re seeing an increasing number of patients encountering complex, long-term conditions that require specialist attention from a team of consultants.

To help better meet the evolving needs of patients and operate more efficiently, the NHS is leveraging the power of digital technology. Whether it’s enabling patients to book appointments and view test results online or speak to a doctor over the phone, the NHS is embracing innovation to allow patients to manage their health and wellbeing needs, backed up by face-to-face care when this is needed.

Naturally, a huge part of this digital drive comes in the form of various NHS-approved apps.

By automating certain processes and reducing administrative work, healthcare apps can improve the efficiency of NHS services and staff. This can help reduce the workload for healthcare professionals, allowing them to focus on delivering high-quality care to patients.

NHS England directive: enable digital with patient portals

In a letter addressed to regional directors, NHS England has announced a national expectation that all non-specialist acute trusts establish a patient portal in 2023/24.

To support organisations on their journey, significant revenue funding will be made available to procure a portal or extend the functionality of an existing solution. The aim of the directive is to extend coverage and expand the functionality of portals, which will supplement each trust’s digital transformation strategy and benefit patients with an improved and more convenient healthcare service.

With demand for hospital treatment outstripping capacity even before the pandemic, it’s no surprise that patients have been affected by significant backlogs and longer wait times for procedures. Through the creation of patient portals, NHS England wants to empower patients to self-manage their own treatment, assisting the NHS in becoming more efficient and reducing this backlog.

From a functionality perspective, these portals will provide patients with a single point of access to their healthcare records, enabling them to view, manage and cancel appointments at their own convenience.

One way that NHS trusts can achieve the aims set out in this directive from NHS England is to repurpose funding towards the integration of healthcare apps.

Improving the patient experience through healthcare apps

From buying groceries online to working from home, people are increasingly using technology in almost every aspect of their lives. Today, there is an app for everything.

The challenges facing the healthcare industry are well-documented, and a key solution to these challenges has to lie in technology. Patients may already receive text messages and reminders from their GP surgery, but imagine a world where every app a patient needs to manage their health is consolidated in one integrated system.

By consolidating healthcare apps into an easy-to-access integrated system, patients will be able to take control of their own care and benefit from an enhanced experience, meaning vital healthcare services are just a click of a button away.

Because almost every person in the country has already downloaded the NHS App onto their phone during the pandemic, NHS App integration really is a no-brainer for digital health innovators.

So, why is now the time to integrate with the NHS App? Allow us to explain…


  • Better access to healthcare services: In short, apps help even the playing field when it comes to accessing healthcare services. Whether a patient lives in a remote location or has difficulty attending in-person appointments due to an ongoing condition, apps give them instant access to the information and services they need from the comfort of their own home.
  • Enhanced efficiency: Healthcare apps help to free staff up from answering simple questions or carrying out administrative tasks that could be automated, meaning they’re able to focus on delivering the best level of care for those who need it most.
  • Improved patient engagement:  The desire for convenience is becoming more of an important factor in our daily lives. By having access to all the necessary apps on their mobile device, patients will be more engaged with their treatment and be more inclined to monitor their condition once they’ve returned home.
  • Reduced cost: Whether it’s saving staff time by automating tasks or reducing readmission rates to hospital, healthcare apps are a vital mechanism in helping to reduce operational costs for the NHS.

A step-by-step guide to integration

So what will you need to do to integrate with the NHS App? And when will you need to do it? Below is a step-by-step guide that NHS England have put together to help digital health innovators better understand what’s required at each stage of the integration process.

Step 1 – Register your interest in integrating with the NHS App

For digital health innovators, the first step towards achieving NHS App integration is to register your interest with NHS England, ensuring you meet the integration criteria. This will involve detailing what services you wish to provide, who your intended users are, what frameworks or programmes you are a part of, and how your app will be accessed.

Step 2 – Pass product assessment 

Once you have registered interest in integrating, the next step will be to pass a product assessment run by NHS England. For GDPR purposes, you’ll need to demonstrate how you intend to use data by sharing a number of documents. The NHS App team will then use a test account to conduct a usability assessment of your product or service to ensure it’s compatible with their offering.

Step 3 – Design your integration with the NHS App team 

When it comes to designing your integration you have two options: keeping things in-house or outsourcing design to a specialist integration partner. While your internal team may be more than capable of designing your integration, this type of work is time-consuming, especially if they aren’t equipped with the specialist knowledge. If you choose to work with a technical partner, you’ll benefit from working with experts who are likely to have an existing relationship with NHS England, and can advise the best route to take to get your product to market within the NHS. They’ll work with you to explore API and web integration options, decide on app features and functionality, introduce you to the NHS App team, and test an integration prototype with your real users.

Step 4 – Deliver your integration 

Now it’s time to build your integration. Again, this can be either done in-house or by outsourcing delivery to a specialist partner. If you choose to go down the route of working with a specialist partner, you’ll benefit from working with a company who has done this countless times before, helping you overcome the challenges you’ll encounter and leading to a quicker time to market. They will be on hand to guide and support you through the entire process of completing the Supplier Conformance Assessment List (SCAL) and connection agreement, and they’ll conduct final QA testing before defining your integration rollout plan.

Step 5 – Release your integration 

The final stage of this process comes in the form of releasing your integration, which will be either a limited or full release. For a limited release, a minimal viable product will be launched with a select number of GP practices. For a full release, your product will have already undergone testing in a limited release and it will now be fully functional within the NHS App.

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