Across the world there is a drive to deliver a better patient experience with improvements in patient safety and outcomes while cutting costs and improving hospital efficiencies.
The UK has introduced the £260 million "Safer Wards, Safer Hospitals" Technology Fund, which will help fund the drive to a paperless hospital environment. The NHS has a number of challenging targets that have kick-started this activity:
(a) Paperless NHS by 2018
(b) Achieve £20bn in cost savings by 2015
In the USA there are financial incentives for hospitals to implement an Electronic Patient Record (EPR), but more importantly hospitals need to show that they are using the EPR to its potential. To be eligible for payment they must show that they meet the “meaningful use” objectives. To learn more about these objectives see www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/meaningful-use-definition-objectives
These incentives will be replaced with penalties after 2015 should hospitals fail to implement an EPR, a factor which was driving a lot of hospitals in their search for technologies at the recent HIMSS 14 conference and exhibition in Orlando, Florida.
In Ireland the Health Service Executive (HSE) has just issued an Invitation to Tender for an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) Framework Agreement to “help hospitals manage the journey from paper-based medical records to an electronic and paper-light model of care” The overarching objective and deliverable from an EMR, according to the HSE, is Patient Safety.
More than just an EPR
One of the key benefits of a move to a paperless environment is the opportunity for clinicians to have faster access to material to assist in their decision making. It will be possible to provide links from the EPR to best practice material in a digital format – for example textbooks, images, videos of procedures.
As more digital content becomes available, clinicians will benefit from much faster access to accurate information, moving away from the time consuming trawling through (sometimes unreliable or outdated) information and reducing the need to search print copies for specific material.
Moving from paper-based to electronic records will free up rooms filled with paper files and eliminate the cost of storage, while the digitisation of clinical reference materials will help hospitals control the costs associated with providing reference information.
and outcomes will be improved by clinicians having access to relevant and up-to-date clinical reference materials whenever and wherever they need them, including at the point of care. Just as the move from paper to electronic patient records will change the way care is delivered, moving to electronic reference material will change when and how clinicians use the insights it provides.
According to HP’s Global Software VP, Paul Muller, in 2012 approximately 500 petabytes (look it up!) of digital healthcare data was sent across the globe. This is expected to reach 25,000 petabytes by the year 2020. So, that’s a 50-times increase in the amount of digital healthcare data that we expect to retain. For more information on this see an interesting analyst discussion at www.zdnet.com/healthcare-turns-to-big-data-analytics-for-improved-patient-outcomes-7000024237/
This huge volume of data available to clinicians, combined with access to relevant digital content at the point of care, can only lead to improved patient outcomes.
What all of this means is that clinicians will be able to access all the information they need in one place, seamlessly. A hospital's EPR will include integration with best practice and clinical reference data, which will allow searches - relevant to the diagnosis or treatment of the particular patient - from within the patient record.
This will mean that we can look forward to improved patient outcomes and safety, increased efficiencies and the reduction of costs, thereby achieving the objectives as stated by most national governments.
Of course there is a long way to go and many hurdles to jump before reaching this eHealth Nirvana - the difficulty hospitals may have is trying to evaluate the competing technologies and finding the right solution for them. Vitro – the Electronic Patient Chart is helping hospitals around the world take steps in the right direction. The benefits to the patient will be worth the effort.
Canice is responsible for growing Slainte Healthcare’s business within the UK and Ireland. During a successful 6 years at Lincor Solutions Canice won many contracts for their bedside computing solution in hospitals across UK, Ireland and the Middle East, developing an understanding of how technology can improve patient outcomes. Canice’s background prior to becoming involved in Healthcare was in the Mobile Communications market, where he held senior global marketing positions with Nokia and sales and marketing roles with BT and Orange. Canice is a Business graduate and is a Member of the Institute of Marketinganice McKee - Business Development Manager Ireland & UK, Sláinte Healthcare