Digital Transformation

NHS to implement paperless referrals

The NHS is moving towards making some of its services paperless.

The NHS is making a positive move towards being a paperless organisation after announcing green goals in a document this week.

According to the NHS Commissioning Board, referrals for patients will be completely paperless by March 2015 "so that patients and carers can easily book appointments in primary and secondary care", something that could save a significant amount of resources.

"We will support commissioners to provide patients with access to digital tools to help them manage health and care as they choose," the document stated.

Although this falls short of previous aims to rid the NHS of paper in all departments in three years’ time, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

It comes after health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Health Service Journal he was pessimistic about the possibility of going paperless in the near future, although he was still looking into ways this could be made a reality.

Ministers have also been calling on the NHS Commissioning Board to allow patients to have access to an integrated electronic record including their GP’s notes by 2015.

However, 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.

The NHS may have problems going completely paperless due to Britain’s ageing population. For instance, many older people are unlikely to have access to devices like smartphones and even infrastructure like the internet on which to manage appointments.

Despite this, managing things like referrals electronically for those who can access them is likely to speed up the process significantly and free up NHS time that could be used productively elsewhere.

The health service is not the only sector finding some resistance to complete paperlessness. According to Radio 1’s Newsbeat, many concert venues do not have the facilities to support paperless tickets, even though it could help to combat touts.