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Integrated systems is the first step to paperless NHS

01/04/2016 minute read Gordon Wilson

The notion of a paper-free NHS has been a hot topic for a while now, and is an area that the Government continues to invest in. Last month, the DH revealed how it intends to allocate the £4.2 billion it has earmarked for creating an integrated, digital NHS. The biggest chunk of this spend, £1.8 billion, is committed to creating a paper-free NHS with health information systems working closer together.

This vision is the ultimate goal, but to reach it the NHS will need to find innovative ways of delivering paperless working, but crucially without compromising quality of care or data security.  Interoperability between system providers is key to this – sharing patient data and booking appointments will eliminate duplication of effort and ensure quality care is provided through Out Of Hours (OOH) and NHS 111 services.

Greater cohesiveness of technology is desperately needed for the NHS to operate effectively in the digital era. It is vital that relevant case and patient histories can be accessed at the point of care so that healthcare staff can make fully informed decisions, while the ability to book appointments into different services will ensure a complete patient journey.

This spring two OOH and NHS 111 healthcare providers will embark on a trial of this type of integration, between Adastra, the patient management system, and EMIS Web, the most widely used primary care clinical system in the UK.

The pilot with Derbyshire Health United (DHU) and gtd healthcare will enable OOH and NHS 111 staff to use Adastra to book patient appointments directly into the GP system, rather than asking the surgery to follow up with the patient or the patient to call the surgery direct.

Adastra is also being developed to enable integration with GP systems to give OOH staff access to special patient notes held locally, reducing the need for GPs to provide new and updated notes to the OOH service.

More and more organisations are embracing integrated systems and reaping the benefits of digital working, yet many healthcare providers are still holding back from investing in technology that could save them time and money. These organisations need to ask themselves why, with so many aspects of our personal and working lives already being technology-based, they are so behind – and whether they can afford to be?

Mobile patient management and point of care solutions are proven to deliver cost-effective and out of hospital care efficiently, and are the foundation for an effective NHS service without compromising on personalised care.

For example, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust recently implemented Carenotes, a next generation electronic patient management solution with mobile functionality. Staff can view patient records and make quicker, more informed and accurate clinical decisions due to improved data accessibility. The technology has also facilitated more consistent working processes supporting more efficient and joined up multi-agency working to enhance patient care and satisfaction.

Although many staff working in healthcare, and the DH recognise the importance of digitisation, the road to achieving a paperless NHS remains a long and, more than likely, bumpy one. Replacing paper-based records and processes with integrated, intuitive systems designed specifically for healthcare providers should be the first step on this road.

This is absolutely fundamental to improving communication and collaboration across the organisation and enabling mobilisation, which in turn will generate the efficiencies every department is under pressure to achieve.