Among the most telling findings from the first HSJ technology survey is the revelation that 59 per cent of respondents believe Jeremy Hunt’s 2018 target for a paperless NHS is great but unrealistic to achieve.
As well as cultural problems among staff, the three top barriers hindering the achievement of a digital NHS highlighted in the survey are the lack of joined up working between primary, secondary and community care, lack of funding and lack of compatibility and integration between different IT systems.
When it comes to implementing large scale IT projects, the main questions each trust should ask itself before making a decision are:
- Do we have the right infrastructure in place that is stable, reliable and quick to allow clinicians and senior trust managers at board level to securely access information?
- Do we have the funding?
- What do we want to achieve in return?
It is also important to understand what benefits to efficiency and clinical outcomes an improved IT system can deliver. A staggering 74 per cent of respondents don’t think the NHS leadership community has enough knowledge to make this judgement.
To get the trusts through the paper/electronic transition time, strong leadership is required. This must understand the gap between clinical, technical and commercial complexity involved in driving towards integrated digital care.
We all agree information is a critical asset in healthcare. The way we capture and use information is crucial, not only in GP practices and hospital wards but also in NHS administration. With 82 per cent of respondents supporting paperless meetings as an important part of progressing towards a paperless NHS, surely boards should champion the paperless initiative. If digital change comes from the top and gradually moves towards the other areas, there are more chances to succeed.
Mike Evans is chief executive of BoardPad, a meeting and document collaboration solution from ICSA Boardroom Apps used by more than 40 English NHS organisations
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