Digital Transformation

NHS ‘must manage its move to more reliance on technology carefully’

Careful management will be required to move the NHS towards paperlessness.

The NHS must be careful that it does not focus too much on targets and not enough on ensuring that its new IT systems work properly when it makes a move towards greater reliance on technology.

This is according to GP and member of the British Medical Association Chaand Nagpaul, who told Computer Weekly he believes some aims already need a rethink.

For example, he suggested that the "ideological targeting approach" may not be helpful when issues such as slow broadband connections could hamper a change to paperless records sharing in rural communities.

"Day-to-day we need to make sure IT is supported and progresses in real-time and make sure the infrastructure is fit for purpose," he commented.

Mr Nagpaul also pointed out that data protection is another key issue.

"While government promotes the philosophy of ownership of data, at the same time if it’s not treated with safeguards, it could quickly lead to public mistrust," he warned.

However, the expert did agree that the NHS is currently over-reliant on paper, suggesting moves to paperlessness are necessary but need to be managed correctly.

Senior fellow of policy at health charity the King’s Fund Veena Raleigh told the news provider she thinks it will be at least two years before the NHS can make significant changes by using information differently.

"There is a learning curve to using information and getting the most out of it," she said.

But if the NHS is to begin sharing more information across boundaries, it will be essential to rely more on electronic databases that paper records.

For instance, the NHS Commissioning Board aims to have all referrals for patients completely paperless by March 2015 "so that patients and carers can easily book appointments in primary and secondary care".

Furthermore, another target is to have the entire health service paperless by 2018.

This would be a big step that would require significant measures to ensure data protection and prevent hackers from being able to access sensitive information.