A Technology Turning Point: A Paperless NHS by 2018?

Oct 5, 2015 7:07:00 AMlauramorrissey

 Society is changing constantly and it doesn’t need to be pointed out that technology is a huge enabler of change. Future generations are increasingly technology aware and dependent. It’s only right that our healthcare system evolves too?

A Technology Turning Point: A Paperless NHS by 2018?

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The Office for National Statistics revealed in June 2014 that the average life expectancy at birth in the UK for men is 79 years and 82 for women. It is predicted that by 2030, the average is to be living into late 80s. For the NHS, this is a problem. The longer we are living, the more strain the institution is set to be under and this will become increasingly so. As we all know, with the topic of much debate that is the NHS, comes a number of controversial factors such as immigration and the pressure that has already put on the NHS and has the potential to in future. Regardless of how future Governments choose to deal with these controversial factors, we are living longer and this is something we have to face head on, especially when it comes to the healthcare of the population at large.

Society is changing constantly and it doesn’t need to be pointed out that technology is a huge enabler of change. Future generations are increasingly technology aware and dependent. It’s only right that our healthcare system evolves too?

Politicians on Technology in the NHS

How the NHS is set to incorporate healthcare in its management is already being talked about by some politicians, as well as charities, think tanks and just anybody else who has technology and/or humanitarianism on their radar.

Before the recent General Election, the now Labour leadership candidate, Liz Kendall made the point “The problem is that the NHS hasn’t brought the right people together yet, those who have an incentive to keep people healthy and those who know how the tech works”

Back in 2013, Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt told Policy Exchange of his hopes for a paperlessNHS by 2018 meaning that we would see electronic prescriptions, digital patient records accessible from different points and locations within the system and electronic communications when concerned with certain appropriate health issues.

To not make these changes would mean (the NHS becomes) “the last man standing as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution”

When will we see Change?

Two years on from when Mr. Hunt made these proposals for the idea of a paperless NHS, it, unfortunately looks as though this target will not be met. In January 2015, the”HSJ”:/http://www.hsj.co.uk undertook a survey of over 500 health experts and IT professionals within the medical field. 71% of who said that the target was of paperless by 2018 was ‘unrealistic’ citing a lack of investment in the required technology as a reason for this.

Furthermore, lets face it. The NHS’ track record with implementation of new technology is not the best. For example, another milestone we are up against this year is that all patients will be able to view their health records from their GP online and that emails will begin to replace paper letter referrals from GPs. These updates were supposed to have been made in the late 1990s – early 2000s. Still, in 2015 not all GP surgeries are up to date.

A fully computerized NHS was the goal of strategies published back in 1992, 1998 and 2001 under the NHS National Program for IT (NPfIT) that would all be controlled under a central system. These attempts failed.

Will History Repeat Itself?

Some critics predict that indeed history will repeat itself. A survey of NHS managers found that only 29% thought that the target of a paperless NHS by 2018 was a likely possibility. The House of Commons, in its final report on the NPfIT warned that making the NHS paperless ‘will involve further investment in IT and business transformation.’

Jeremy Hunt, however believes that the approach in process now is different from previous plans which he believed failed because they tried to implement a “clunky one-size fits all approach” The Department of Health believe that by investing £1 billion, half from central Government and half from local health and care budgets, they will meet the paperless targets.

Unlocking New Technology

We believe that the key to unlocking new technologies and speeding up the process of the NHSbecoming as paperless as possible lies in stronger relations and collaboration between the NHSand innovators. In our conversations about our software system WorkPAL, we see green shoots of this. Trusting relationships with innovators leads to a much needed pick- up of the pace in implementing technology across the NHS.

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