Chances are, you already use an arsenal of apps to make your life easier. You might check in at swanky bars on Facebook; access train timetables and buy tickets using TheTrainLine. Today, our smartphones can tell us how many steps we’ve completed in a day and remind us to do something at a certain time and location. Some phones (like the Samsung S6) can monitor and record a pulse. Technology has integrated almost seamlessly with our lives – so why can’t it do just the same in the context of a paperless NHS? We’re going to take a look at how our health service is moving towards a paperless NHS, what the challenges are, and why device management is key in all this.
The drive towards making the NHS paperless is already in motion, and hopes to be completed by 2020
Digital technology, a branch of the NHS “responsible for realising the digital information needs of the NHS” want a paperless NHS by 2020. Earlier this year, the BBC reported that £4 billion has been put aside for digitising the health service. A paperless NHS would not only help patients receive better care, but aid doctors in making faster diagnoses. As summarised in the BBC’s article, £1.8bn of the £4 billion is to be allocated to create a “paper-free NHS and remove outdated technology like fax machines”. The rest will be spent on cyber security, digitising social and emergency care, building a new NHS.uk website and providing free wifi.
A paperless NHS would allow patients to access medical advice remotely, and allow clinicians to deliver better care
The finer details of how the NHS envisions its new modus operandi are summed up in this fantastic animation on YouTube, commissioned by NHS England. Amongst other things, patients will be able to book GP appointments online, access prescriptions electronically, monitor their health through their phones and receive health advice remotely. According to the BBC news report, the government aims to get at least 10% of patients using computers, tablets or smartphones to “access GP services by March 2017”.
As stated on the NHS website, a paperless NHS will help patients access digital services to improve their healthcare experience, empower them to make better health choices, give professionals access to the information they need to deliver better care, and improve access to and the sharing of data among patients, clinicians and commissioners.
Leadership and culture are among the biggest barriers to adoption of a digital NHS
A report created by the NHS England and US Department of Health and Human Services shines some light on the key factors that may hamper the NHS’ ability to become paperless by 2020. It posits that 42% of the barriers to adoption are leadership and culture, 27% organisation (change management), 23% people (buy in from staff) and 4% technology. In addition to these, funding will always be an issue when introducing new technology and processes. Even though £4 billion has been pledged, history teaches us that it’s incredibly easy to go over budget. The sheer size of the NHS and the fact that its management is broken down into trusts and subdivisions might mean that it takes longer than anticipated to introduce the technology and foster a receptive mindset towards a paperless NHS.
Improper device management would be the spanner in the works of a fully functioning paperless NHS
And then there’s device management. A digital NHS is only as good as the mobile devices that let patients and clinicians communicate and share data. If the devices aren’t maintained properly, kept fully charged, sterilised, and synced with all other devices in the network, they’re of little use to healthcare professionals. Effective storage also ensures the longevity of these expensive mobile devices, and protects them from fluctuations in temperature and theft – not to mention bolstering the safety of private patient data. Hence, a thorough mobile device management strategy is a key ingredient in any plan that sets to direct the NHS towards a paperless future.