It’s the value proposition that will make the NHS paperless
A recent survey has revealed that while most agree that electronic patient records are beneficial, nearly half of NHS CIOs are worried about meeting NHS England’s mandate of going paperless by 2020.
The survey by iGov, on behalf of Opentext, found 46% of NHS CIOs are unsure they will be able to meet the target of being paperless at the point of care by 2020.
As discussed in an earlier blog, health secretary Jeremy Hunt had set a target for the NHS to be paperless by 2018, but this was later revised in NHS England’s Personal Health and Care framework, published in November 2014. The ambitious target states that all NHS organsiations must be paperless at the point of care, with integrated electronic patient records in place by 2020.
Overcoming the barriers
The survey, which asked 115 NHS trusts about their readiness for a paperless NHS, found that 39% said they had yet to digitise patient records.
They cited lack of suitable technology and in-house skills as barriers to going paperless, with 75% also saying that budget restrictions were also a problem – despite NHS England promising £1.8bn in funding for going paperless, split between £900m in capital investment, available to frontline NHS services, with £400m in revenue funding to support the running costs of the investment.
Look up and see the light
That’s a healthy sum of money, but for me it’s the biggest barrier to any form of progress in the NHS – and it’s something that I find really frustrating.
Instead of gazing haplessly at the cost of investment, how about looking at the return of investment and the value proposition of going paperless? Why not think long-term? Why not start treating the NHS like a business – not a drain on the public purse?
As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, IT systems should not be implemented just for the sake of digitising practices and hospitals. The purpose of digitisation is not to digitise, not to go paperless, but to improve quality, safety, efficiency and the patient (customer?) experience. The powers that be at the NHS need to start thinking how an effective paperless system can deliver benefits in these areas – and how these benefits can save time and money – which could in turn genuinely reduce the cost of investment.
By looking at the value that can be added by going paperless, just as businesses up and down the country do through the implementation of managed document solutions, NHS managers can work out the direction they need to be going in. With a clearly identified value proposition and direction, buy-in from clinicians, including GPs, nurses and pharmacists, will be easier. Again, just as in business, successfully implementing an IT system needs buy-in from all stakeholders.
Now is the time for the various NHS organisations to think about how they are going to manage all this new data created in a digital healthcare system. It needs the smart administrators to take a step back to identify the whole picture, identify where the paper is, engage all members of staff at all levels and think about process flows. Do that and a paperless NHS is within reach.