This week saw some significant developments within the NHS in terms of reinforcing the commitment to a paperless NHS.
By 2018 a paperless National Health Service (NHS) in the UK will ensure patients only have to tell their story once: if you consent, your electronic care record will be available securely across most of the health system, and by 2020 across the whole of the health and care system, so that, when you need care, different health professionals have instant access to the information they need. This is something everyone who has ever been a patient will welcome.
In a major speech by Jeremy Hunt, UK Health Secretary, he reiterated the steps that are required on this journey:
- By March 2015 - everyone who wishes will be able to get online access to their own health records held by their GP.
- Adoption of paperless referrals - instead of sending a letter to the hospital when referring a patient, the GP can send an email to the hospital instead.
- Clear plans in place to enable secure linking of these electronic health and care records wherever they are held, so there is as complete a record as possible of the care someone.
- Clear plans in place for those records to be able to follow individuals, with their consent, to any part of the NHS or social care system.
- By April 2018 - digital information to be fully available across the NHS and social care services, barring any individual opt outs.
In a separate interview, Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information, stressed that along with this target for clinical staff making transitions of care without paper records by 2018, the new IT strategy for all patient and care records to be digital by 2020 is a “hard stop” that must be met if the NHS in England is to remain viable.
“In the very basic, beating heart of the commissioning and regulatory structures, people will need to have adopted a digital record by 2020, or they will not be treating NHS patients,” he said.
As well as delivering better patient outcomes there is a drive to cut costs by £10bn per annum. In the UK more than half the population bank online and in doing so banks have cut their costs by an impressive 20%. By embracing the lower costs of virtual shopping, websites such as Amazon deliver products more conveniently but also more cheaply too.
And likewise this has happened in healthcare, where the Veterans Association in the US estimates that a fully integrated, digital system including accessible electronic health records, remote monitoring, and online consultations has saved $3 billion over 6 years.
To enable NHS Trusts to afford this drive to the future, the NHS has made funds available in a number of ways. There was a ‘Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards’ technology fund of £260m – this allowed NHS Trusts to apply for money which they had to match.
Now we have the Nursing Technology Fund – this was set up to support nurses, midwives and health visitors to make better use of digital technology in all care settings, in order to deliver safer, more effective and more efficient care.
The first round saw 74 Trusts awarded funding totalling almost £30m for 85 projects.
Round 2 of this has just been announced with £35m available for Trusts to apply for before December 2nd. There is no requirement for the Trust to match the funding however the application must be aligned with capabilities such as:
- Mobile access to digital care records across the community
- Digital capture of clinical data at point-of-care
It is encouraging to see the senior Government ministers having such a clear vision as to how technology is key in delivering improved patient services, as well as delivering on cost savings which will in turn mean more investment in the NHS in the future. Not only that but they seem to be putting their money where their mouth is and making funds available to ensure that it happens.
Canice McKee - Business Development Manager Ireland & UK, Sláinte Healthcare
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 Marketing