It is a truth universally acknowledged that the healthcare sector in the UK is under increasing pressure to do more with less. As the population both expands and ages, and as cutting-edge new treatments and innovations become available – at a cost – the NHS needs to deal with more challenges, choose between more interventions, and do all this in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

 

So how does digital transformation factor in? Multiple definitions circulate, but broadly speaking it is the replacement of manual or disparate processes with digital, unified ones. Tedious manual tasks are automated, freeing up resource to focus on longer-term or more complex, creative and strategic tasks. Physical information sources are digitised, reducing errors, saving physical resources and speeding up data-sharing and collaborative decision-making. Information that previously went entirely untapped is captured and harnessed, informing tangible change and business improvements.

 

Link these two concepts together, and it is easy to see why ‘using digital technology to transform the NHS and social care’ is such a top priority.

 

Paperless 2020 initiative

Central to this is the drive towards paperless processes. Since the smooth running of the NHS and social care systems depends to a large degree on the transition of patient records between multiple different systems, and those records have historically been paper-based, creating centralised and digitised information sources enables greater speed, accuracy and collaboration at a single stroke. This is particularly important in light of goals to generate closer working between health and social care services to improve both patient experience and outcomes, and the NHS bottom line.

 

That ‘bottom line’ phrase is key. Unlike some businesses, which may be able to try out the latest technology as an experimental measure, the NHS must deliver value for money from each new technology deployment. Here, digital transformation has to drive genuine savings, first time.

 

The importance of hardware

This draws us towards a sometimes-neglected facet of the transition to paperless processes. Clearly, a key part of any such initiative is the digitisation of existing paper records. They need to be scanned, the data extracted and transformed into a new digital format and then securely stored on some kind of centralised platform. All this needs to be achieved with the highest levels of security, given the sensitivity of the information involved, and patient consent needs to be considered too.

 

However, once all this is achieved, another key aspect of paperless processes is how that digital information is actually accessed, harnessed, contributed to and updated by the healthcare staff who need it. In other words, medical practitioners who previously relied on clipboards and pens now need to be provisioned with hardware that can handle this newly digitised information, such as medical grade PCs and medical carts that are integrated with Electronic Prescribing and Medicines Administration (ePMA).

 

Howard Medical and Distec will be discussing medication compliance and technology at this year’s Monitoring & Reducing Medication Errors & Harm in Hospitals National Summit 2018. Eric Smolin, International Business Development Executive for Howard Medical will focus on how technology can transform medication delivery and reduce errors but streamlining processes and introducing automation. 

 

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