EHI Live 2013 preview: A paperless NHS by 2018? Could it ever happen?

One of our health care partners, Cloud 2 , will be joining Microsoft at EHI Live on 5-6 November, 2013. Richard Smith from Cloud2 discusses here what the team will be showing at EHI Live.  

Despite the advent of electronic communications and records, paper is still used extensively for communicating and recording information. However it is well recognised that paper is a flawed medium for this purpose, presenting limitations on how it can be shared, transferred, updated, governed, protected and otherwise managed. At this year’s EHI, we’ll be talking about the path to a paperless healthcare system here in the UK.

It’s been well publicised that the NHS should go paperless by 2018, which could lead to billions in savings, as well as improving services and helping to meet the challenges of an ageing population. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that patients should have compatible digital records so their health information can follow them around the health and social care system. This would mean that in most cases, whether patients need a GP, hospital or a care home, the professionals involved in their care could see patient histories “at the touch of a button”.

In the GP community, the majority of legacy patient information continues to be stored as paper, most commonly in the form of 5 by 7 inch wallets. Today, many practices are able to scan paper documentation and append it to a patient’s record in the practice’s Electronic Patient Record System. This is generally referred to as being ‘paper light’. But historical information continues to be stored, accessed and transferred on paper. These records are often large, representing many years (theoretically a full lifetime’s history) of notes and many episodes of care. And clinical notes are only one aspect of the legacy paper-based systems, as many other processes rely on paper, yet could be easily replaced with efficient digital equivalents.

In NHS Trusts, we are already seeing a desire to introduce and develop more robust internal systems with a view to widening that out to patient solutions in the future. Our ROI calculator indicates savings in the millions even for non-clinical documents. At EHI Live 2013, we’ll be talking about solutions and methods health organisations can use to finally embrace a paperless system.

We absolutely believe that the 2018 goal is achievable, but it will require users, buyers and suppliers to think and act differently. We need to recognise that we are unlikely to achieve universality of data, systems and processes. The pace of change within the healthcare system means that we’ll never reach a perfect moment to deliver just the right solution, at just the right time.

We see this as an opportunity. There are solutions, including those we have developed, that can deliver all the foundations necessary for a paperless NHS. To give you an example, we’re working with Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, who are introducing an integrated intranet, extranet and Internet solution to better engage with staff, professionals and patients. The joined up solution builds on their Hadron 8020 intranet with public websites, a professionals’ portal and referral form integration.

The journey towards paperless is as much about culture as technology. The 2018 paperless goal is only going to become reality if the NHS, and its users, want it to be. It can be achieved, and almost certainly within the timescale the Health Secretary has set, if there is the will. Cloud2 will be launching their SharePoint 2013 versions of Hadron 8020 & Hadron 365 at EHI Live. Come find us on Microsoft stand B60 at EHI Live 2013 on 5-6 November in Birmingham for a demo.

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