The government has for some time wanted the NHS to transition towards a paperless world, digitising patient records and the like, but it hasn’t been a straightforward process with many obstacles in place. There are of course systems in place in certain sections of healthcare, and providers of document management systems to assist healthcare, but the bigger picture remains an unclear one.
An Electronic Patient Record shouldn’t be impossible with the speed with which technology has advanced, but for such a wide-ranging, and admittedly creaking, organisation it is very difficult to get people to take up the idea with any seriousness, or without wanting someone else to take the lead and begin the long process of transitioning to such a programme.
For many GPs, other healthcare professionals, and patients themselves, the idea of your information being available in one simple digital folder makes sense, and in any other walk of modern life it would be widely accepted as the right way to go, but an ingrained practice of working within doctors surgeries and hospitals has meant that it still feels easier to pick up the physical copy of a patients file to see their records. Add to that the problem of legacy patients and how to transfer the vast quantity of old records into a new digitised format and it looks even more unlikely.
How can the NHS transition to a paperless entity then?
Is a Combination Possible? – There could be a way of transitioning through a combination of paper and digital in the short-term in order to ensure that data is future-proofed, but without it having an immediate and painful impact on the processes and service of the NHS at this time.
Implement Where Easiest and Most Effective – Rather than rolling out a widespread paperless NHS the first port of call should be looking at areas where it can have an immediate impact on the standard of healthcare delivered and to help departments cope with modern demands.
Work on Patient Appointments – One area in which there could be a quick transition to a digital only world is to make the patient appointment process a hybrid one. Instead of the relevant documents being tracked and recalled physically, they could be scanned and delivered at the time of the appointment.
Store Off-Site – Working alongside reputable nationwide document storage and management providers could be the answer to utilising much needed space within NHS departments. This way records can be stored securely in off-site locations, with a process taking place of digitising the necessary records in a longer process, singling out areas that have a much more pressing requirement for digital processes.
Consider the Impact of the New GDPR – As of May 2018 new rules will come into play that provides European citizens with a greater right to access their data and request editing to take place if information is incorrect. A paperless NHS would have to figure out the best way to search and share data to the correct individuals when called upon.
Data Breaches – Lastly, the implications of a data breach for one of the largest organisations there is are unthinkable, and as such a sturdy defence system against data breaches.