Justine Abson, head of marketing for Radar Healthcare, explores the digital transformation of health and social care, but despite significant innovation asks the question – will it ever become truly paper-free?
Back in 2016, the NHS launched its Paperless 2020 commitment, setting out to better use data and technology to give patients more control over their health and well-being, empower carers, reduce administrative burden and support the development of new medicines and treatments.
Seven years on and the changes to digital services across both the NHS and care sectors have been monumental.
The NHS app has been hailed as the ‘digital front door to care’.
It’s now the norm to start a GP appointment online, video consultations are no longer seen as something from the future.
With 90 per cent of GPs using the electronic prescription services it’s now possible to make an appointment, speak to a clinician and begin treatment all without leaving home.
Patients are being driven to a digitally powered NHS only to find in reality; behind the scenes it is paper driven.
Meaning arduous administration for staff and missed opportunities through lost data insights.
Take for example, how nurses record incidents.
In research we commissioned we uncovered that; a quarter of nurses (26 per cent) only reported incidents verbally to senior staff and a further 9 per cent admitted to passing handwritten incident notes to senior staff.
We also found that some frontline nurses need to wait to gain computer access.
The result? Gaps in digital insight and a high chance of it being lost altogether – along with the opportunity to learn and improve.
The other key factor that still exists is the siloed nature of NHS trusts and care providers.
It’s still not a smooth process to ensure data crosses between trusts, from NHS to care or even in some cases from ward to ward.
The insights data can bring to the healthcare ecosystem is incredibly valuable, but unless it’s all there, it’s analysed properly and used to create learnings, ultimately, it’s just meaningless data taking up storage space and acting like a giant filing cabinet.
Often, we see trusts and care providers bringing information from different data sources together, replacing legacy systems and trying to make sense of them manually.
It’s an impossible task for humans alone but made possible when technology such as Artificial Intelligence and automation is harnessed.
Take a care home manager for example, while doing the day job they’re now overwhelmed by data linked to falls, health information, staff rotas, resident, and family feedback.
How do they process this data, let alone learn from it?
Nine times out of ten they’re just going to flag up anomalies in any one data set – when the real potential lies within examining it as a whole and it’s benefit to the individual through person centered care and to the population through trend analysis.
And that’s before taking into account other responsibilities, such as preparing for and actioning audits, which often begin life as a manual task resulting in hundreds, if not thousands of individual data sets.
However, when a digital process is implemented to complete audits, data can be easily analysed alongside other areas.
This helps not only to demonstrate that the standard of care conforms to the right processes, but it also enables actionable insights to show where improvements should be made.
Imagine the changes we could make to patient and resident outcomes should all recorded data be fed into one central system that could analyse and find trends that would take even the best statisticians weeks to identify.
Especially at a time when time and resource is under so much pressure.
What if that level of analysis of different data sets became the norm and we could prevent things like hospital admissions from care homes or release patients quicker simply by having a better understanding of the information already at our fingertips?
Less unnecessary hospital admissions mean less bed blocking in overburdened wards, faster flowing A&E’s and shorter waiting lists across stretched trusts.
The technology already exists in Radar Healthcare’s risk, quality and compliance system and the integrations it is capable of helps to bring different data sets into one central system which allows healthcare providers to have a complete oversight across their organisation.
With the bigger picture, data can be viewed, understood, reported on and evidenced, as well as allowing meaningful actions to be implemented to drive positive outcomes – for patients, residents and staff.
Ultimately, health and care may never be fully paper-free but perhaps that shouldn’t be the priority, perhaps what would have the greatest impact on patients and residents would be to build a culture of using automation to maximise the insights of the data.
By doing this, positive outcomes will be at the heart of everything.
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