Going paperless could save you time and money but there are vital things to consider to ensure patients are protected and resources are maximised

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blue hand

As the push for a paperless NHS intensifies, organisations must take a range of issues into consideration before they are fully on board.

Such topics range from the technology that is available to how people use it. Through a range of features and case studies, this supplement looks at different aspects of going paperless, including:

  • Technology: New technology has the potential to empower patients as never before by, for instance, allowing them to look at their own health records and even share it with relatives or carers. But this will require an infrastructure that allows the seamless flow of information between NHS organisations, social care providers and patients.
  • Data protection: Even staff with access rights to patient records may look at them when they shouldn’t – for instance looking up relatives’ data out of curiosity. But Wales’s new national monitoring system should flag up such unethical behaviour.
  • Efficiency: Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust has largely dispensed with paper for board meetings; instead, members use software running on iPads to distribute and view documents. This has not only saved on costs such as photocopying but also encouraged collaboration between board members.
  • Service improvement: Many trusts are now looking at systems that identify patients at risk of deterioration, systems that can also cut error rates associated with paper-based monitoring. New technology also means that nurses on the move can use tablets to monitor patients. Meanwhile, managers can see in real time what is happening on the wards, helping them to tackle challenges such as infection control and winter overcrowding.
  • Service redesign: NHS England clinical informatics director Professor Jonathan Kay expects all GP test requests and reports to be computerised by 2018. Systems for managing test requests and feedback should cut costs and help to ensure reports arrive – and are dealt with – on time, speeding up diagnosis. They also offer the opportunity to do new things such as share test results with patients electronically.

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