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The paperless NHS: From vision to reality

English doctors are ready to support a paperless NHS with technology as an everyday part of healthcare delivery.

Overview

A recent Accenture doctor survey conducted among 3,700 doctors around the world indicates that English doctors embrace technology usage more and more as common practice in healthcare delivery.

The results show a sharp increase in healthcare IT usage in all eight countries involved in the survey. In England, the study seems to indicate that the foundations for a paperless NHS are already there. However, the road to success does include potential pitfalls that need to be overcome.

Background
Any investment towards a paperless NHS must evaluate and balance the requirements of the “existing NHS reality” against its “future paperless vision:”

  • Which solutions should remain and which ones should be introduced?

  • What kind of “paperless” will make a real impact and help clinical staff to provide better health services?

Choosing the right combination of solutions will depend on effective engagement with clinical staff, which will facilitate an understanding (through their eyes) of the barriers to the use of healthcare IT.

This engagement will also facilitate retention of what is already working on the ground. Doctors have the insight needed to help the NHS make the right decisions towards a paperless system.

Analysis

English doctors are some of the most receptive anywhere when it comes to healthcare IT. But IT investment patterns in the NHS seem to have created silos in technology adoption, with 60 percent IT adoption in primary healthcare, and only 22 percent for secondary care.

This creates a clear barrier for integration whenever patients requires specialist intervention, since it is unlikely that their secondary care providers will have easy, digital access to information about care received during primary healthcare.

Recommendations
In moving towards a paperless future, the NHS should:

  • Tackle concerns and negative perceptions to ensure clinicians are ready to support and implement the required changes when they arrive

  • Find the right balance between the NHS reality of today and its vision of tomorrow, with investments in technology that deliver real integration across all levels of care

  • Engage with clinical staff on the ground to help create a successful journey towards the paperless goal