Just 29% of NHS Managers believe the 2018 target of a paperless office is realistic.
Going paperless is a challenge for any large organisation, but for the cash-strapped NHS; constantly under public scrutiny, the task looks much less attainable.
Many Health and IT professionals remain deeply sceptical that the NHS can be paperless by 2018, two years after health secretary Jeremy Hunt unveiled the ambitious target, exclusive research carried out by Health Service Journal has found.
71% of respondents to the survey, agreed with a statement that the paperless by 2018 goal was “a great ambition, but unrealistic”.
The 573 healthcare leaders, clinicians and IT professionals polled also expressed widespread concern that lack of technological expertise and resources would undermine the NHS’s drive to integrate health and social care.
About 70% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “The integrated care agenda will not be possible because not enough attention and/or resource is being focused on developing technology to underpin integrated records.”
Better use of data and technology has the power to improve health, transforming the quality and reducing the cost of healthcare services. It can give patients more control over their health and wellbeing, empower carers, reduce the administrative burden for care professionals, and support the development of new medicines and treatments. By April 2018, digital information is supposed to be fully available across NHS and social care services.
Established by the Department of Health, the National Information Board (NIB) is a body which brings together national health and care organisations from the NHS, public health, clinical science, social care and local government. It is charged with developing the strategic priorities for data and technology in health and care to deliver the maximum benefit for all citizens and patients and to make appropriate recommendations for investment and action. The urgency of this is increasingly evident: the healthcare system faces unprecedented financial constraint at a time of rising demand for its services.
However, scattered around the country are some success stories:
Pioneer Greater Manchester GP Dr Amir Hannan says that more than 2,400 of his patients – 20 per cent of his practice list – are now equipped and, importantly, trained to view their records online.
At Grove House Practise in Runcorn, GP David Wilson headed up a project to digitise records. Grove House has scanned all its legacy patient records, saving a vast amount of space and time. Receptionists no longer have to search through thousands of folders.
“We’ve not used paper records in consultation since 2000,” Wilson said. “We have 11,000 patients, and the racking space was astronomical, taking up 20 square metres. So we revamped the office space once we went live 18 months ago.”
The first NHS hospital trust to announce it had gone paperless, St Helens and Knowsley, dispensed with its last paper records in 2012.
However, even IT enthusiasts warn that bringing the entire health and social care system up to the levels of these front-runners will be difficult. TechUK, which represents IT suppliers, reported in 2014 that the 2018 paperless target was “achievable”, but that major challenges remain.
Sources: Health Service Journal, Computer Weekly, Local Government Chronicle, Gov.UK, Raconteur
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