Innovation and changeDigital TransformationMost of NHS trusts yet to go for fully digital patient records

Most of NHS trusts yet to go for fully digital patient records

A FOI on digitising patient records reveals that only one in ten NHS trusts are fully digitised, despite the government’s plans for a Paperless NHS by 2020

There is still progress to be made by the NHS when it comes to adoption of digital patient records, according to new data obtained from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request

The request, issued by OpenText in February 2019 to 74 NHS trusts across the UK, revealed that the majority of NHS trusts are yet to fully embrace digital patient records. The 52 respondents shared the extent to which patient records are currently digitised, future plans about digitising them and the staff preparedness of the trust for to managing digitised patient records.

This is despite the UK government planning for a Paperless NHS by 2020.

Working towards a paperless NHS

In January 2019, the UK government announced its new NHS Long Term Plan to address the healthcare system’s lack of interoperability, aiming to improve the quality of patient care and healthcare outcomes in the UK. The plan requires all secondary healthcare providers to transition to digital records by 2023, ensuring clinicians can access and interact with patient records and care plans wherever they are.

Despite these guidelines, the figures released recently indicate there is still progress to be made – with just one third (37 percent) of responding Trusts stating that over half of their patient records are currently in a digital format. In fact, only one in five (23 percent) of NHS Trusts confirmed that 76-99% of patient records – i.e. scans, letters, notes and results – are currently digitised.

Respondents were asked to confirm the number of paper-based patient records they collected in Q4 2018, although 69% of those surveyed were unable to provide an answer – with only 16 Trusts (31%) were able to provide this data. These NHS trusts alone created more than 1.7 million paper-based records during this time period. 

Investment in change

Encouragingly, the new data revealed that the majority (62%) of trusts have plans to digitise all patient records – with 12% already fully digitised and a further 21% aiming to become fully digitised within the next one to two years. In addition, one in five (21%) of trusts are planning to become paperless within the next three to four years, in accordance with the new government guidelines. Only 12% of those surveyed have no plans to digitise all patient records. To support this move to digital, the majority (85%) of trusts are currently providing staff members with training in how to better manage digitised patient records.

With the launch of NHSX, NHS has a unit that will take forward transformation to a digitally enabled NHS. It will allow patients and staff to benefit from the latest digital systems and technology.

The organisation will use experts in technology, digital, data, and cyber security to deliver on the Health Secretary’s tech vision and the Long Term Plan for the NHS.

Burden on the patients

Tracey Lethbridge, head of UK public sector at OpenText, said: “Virtually every aspect of modern life has been radically reshaped by innovation and technology. Yet, in the UK, the delivery of healthcare remains locked into a service model created when the NHS was founded more than 70 years ago. The NHS is made up of hundreds of separate but linked organisations, and the burden of managing complex interactions and data flows between trusts, systems and individuals too often falls on patients.

“With new Government guidelines in place, the ultimate goal is to empower healthcare organisations to evolve working practices and provide better patient care whilst reducing costs. One way to achieve this is to take a digital approach to information management. Through the creation of a “one patient, one record” environment, NHS clinicians can easily access the necessary information – regardless of where it is and in what form – to more effectively commission and monitor services that reflect the needs of patients. Ultimately, accurate and timely patient data is at the heart of delivering quality care and will ensure all front-line care staff can access this information where and when it is needed, boosting their productivity and enabling them to help more patients, more quickly.”

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