Doctors are using inefficient systems to receive patients’ results, but having the information pushed to a phone or tablet would provide faster care and reduce costs, says Dr Jon Shaw
HSJ’s open letter to Jeremy Hunt was spot on in praising ambitions for a paperless future, but also in urging the minister to go further by addressing “the problematic culture in the NHS in which technology is viewed largely as a sideshow to the main event”.
‘Many doctors wait long enough for the results for several patients to be ready all at once; we call it “batch processing”’
Just transferring paperwork and filing cabinets to documents and folders on our PCs, tablets and mobiles is not enough to create the required change. We must put technology at the heart of the way we work and use it proactively to drive the way we provide care.
I do not think it is acceptable that, as a patient, the information that says you could be sick – such as blood results – currently sits passively on a database, relying on a busy clinician to chase it up.
Working in two emergency departments, I know – because I am guilty of it myself – that many doctors wait long enough for the results for several patients to be ready all at once; we call it “batch processing”, which saves time by avoiding repeatedly going into various systems to check results that may or may not be there. But is this doing the best by our patients?
There is a far better way of using data to drive care, using modern technology that is familiar to most people: a cloud service and a social media style network, accessed through a smartphone.
‘The information drives care because critical data is put in front of the clinician instantly to act upon’
Instead of asking the clinician to spend time “pulling” information off various systems, software can allow data to be “pushed” to relevant healthcare teams in the form of alerts and instant notifications.
Once alerted, various teams can discuss the next steps via a secure social media platform. This keeps everyone in the loop about a patient’s care and ensures conversations, decisions and actions about patients are recorded and documented without the need for paper and files. Importantly, it would enable a specialist team to review the patient and initiate treatment straight away.
This way, the information drives care because critical data is put in front of the clinician instantly to act upon. The outcome for the patient is likely to improve and the cost of care would decrease.
This is how technology can be used proactively to enable “the main event”, as the HSJ letter put it, rather than remain a sideshow. Crucially, we should put clinicians at the heart of the procurement and design of new models of care delivery – but it is patients who would be empowered by it.
Dr Jon Shaw is a co-founder of DocCom with Dr Jonathan Bloor, who were both were named in the HSJ Top Innovators list