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Is a Paperless NHS Possible by 2020?

by | Oct 16, 2017 | Healthcare | 0 comments

Is a Paperless NHS Possible by 2020?

by | Oct 16, 2017 | Healthcare | 0 comments

The NHS, much like many businesses and bodies around the world, have decided that the time has come to go paperless. Carbon footprint reduction is becoming a more common process in corporate settings. It’s no surprise that one of the biggest recruiters in the UK, also wants to make a change by rolling out a paperless NHS.

It has been a huge focus of, Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to ensure that the NHS does not get left behind when it comes to technology. With so many other businesses moving forward with their new operating systems and approaches, the NHS is overdue an overhaul.

The Problem

The NHS produces tonnes of paper waste every year and spends thousands of man-hours on administrative tasks. Both of these issues could be reduced by introducing new technologies and digital methods. The 2016 Wachter Review looked at the health and care system in England. Wachter made 10 main recommendation to help the NHS run more efficiently and provide the very best level of patient care. One key area he identified was the need to digitise the NHS as a whole.

The Plan

There are a variety of ways that digitisation could have a positive impact on the patient service. Digital patient records, online prescriptions and an update to software and hardware systems used within the health service would all benefit from improvement, and pave the way to paperless NHS.
It isn’t just inside the NHS that these technological changes will be made. There are also major developments planned in for self-care for patients too. Large names in tech such as Microsoft and Google are being consulted. Smaller UK based companies are also being considered, to develop health based apps to allow patients to take charge of their own lifestyle choices and medical influences. In fact, earlier this year Hunt called the next 10 years the NHS’s “patient power decade”.
Seems like a big ask? How can these plans be implemented? The main driving force behind this plan is funding. There’s a package of funding allocated to make the changes needed in the NHS. This includes £1.8 billion assigned to ensure patient records are no longer paper based. This is also to reduce NHS staff dependance on fax machines amongst other outdated technologies.
Money has also been allocated to make things better for patients when they visit hospitals. £400 million will aid provision of free Wi-Fi in hospitals and help deliver new apps designed to help people on their everyday lives.
Finally, Hunt wanted to reduce the need for repeat appointments with GPs for those who are managing long-term conditions. Currently, this costs GPs time and increases pressure on their overstretched schedules. Under new schemes, patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension will be able to monitor their own conditions from home. In addition, there will be various points in the community, such as health kiosks where test results can be sent back to their doctor or nurse securely over the internet.

The Future for a paperless NHS

Hunt’s main hope with this plan was “better patient outcomes and a revolution in healthcare at home.”. He also hopes to ease the “pressure on the frontline and create stronger partnerships between doctors and patients.”
It may seem like somewhat of a long shot, particularly when so much has to change. But there is a real sense of confidence that the NHS will be able to achieve these rather grand aims. Clearly, a large investment being put into this project. There is broad support from within the NHS, and many of the staff are on board. A paperless NHS seems achievable.
The key to this NHS overhaul rests with the NHS building strong relationships with British businesses who are already building the digital products and services they need. They can make paperless possible, even for such a huge system. They are building the tools and resources to connect patients with healthcare staff in new ways.
There may be a tricky few years ahead for the NHS with disruption possible. The end goal of a paperless NHS that positively impacts the health of more patients more efficiently is not a pipe dream. With 2020 around the corner, we can look forward to an NHS, which is not only paperless, but one of the best and most up-to-date health services in the world.


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