The NHS Branding Problem In Healthcare Technology

I have become ever more conscious in the last few months of the growing branding problem the NHS has in relation to patient-facing technology.

Let’s take, for example, the experience of booking an online appointment with your GP. Rather than interacting with an NHS branded service, I can be interacting with either Vision Online, SystmOnline, or Patient Access – as well as the growing list of third-party providers for this service.

In most cases, these supplier-led brands are meaningless to the patient. Does your average patient care, or need to know, about these brands? The only one that stands out from the above list is which has an independent brand, because of the knowledge base aspect of the service.

But, shouldn’t the NHS own the branding of these services? If I interact with Boots, or Kwik Fit, I don’t know the name of the supplier they use for their booking services, because they have ensured the integrity of their branding.

Why is someone from a supplier calling for their branding to become more diminished in the patient world? It comes down to the user experience. A patient/citizen might not realise it, but there’s a missed opportunity to ensure a smoother, unified, experience.

Unifying the look and feel under the NHS brand can lead to improved adoption, a better experience, and lead to improved savings on the side of the healthcare provider, because more users trust these online services, and know about them.

The white labelling of products should encompass all services that allow a patient to interact directly with an NHS organisation. I still agree that the growing eco-system of wearables, apps, and non-patient facing systems still retain their branding.

It’s time for the NHS approach to patient services to mature, for them to take ownership of this branding. The underlying system does not matter to the patient. This won’t stifle innovation, as long as this new technology is implemented through the branding guidelines the NHS could provide.

What’s the point? It’s about bringing the kind of user experience you get from using GOV.UK within the realm of the growing online services the NHS is offering patients through its suppliers, but without unifying the branding.


James Barton

James is a freelance writer and specialist in Digital Health. He brings his perspective as a leader within a reknowned supplier to developments within the healthcare technology industry.

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  • Dr Knut Schroeder

    In my experience, large organisations like the NHS or universities can be very (too?) cautious and reluctant to lend their branding to products provided by third party providers. We need both the NHS and third party providers to become more open to considering NHS branding options.