For years we have heard that ICT will allow us to achieve the paperless office. Even so, it seems that a lot of paper is still used today; we print all sorts of items, from boarding passes to books. We might have embraced emails, chat and other forms of e-communication, but we still use and produce a lot of paper.
It seems that one area that has been working this way is the health sector. Notes taken by doctors and nurses are recorded in (paper) files that are shared with others when necessary, and prescriptions are handwritten and passed on to pharmacies for patients to collect their medication. One of such cases was highlighted during a keynote at a recent HP eHospital event.
The Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) NHS Foundation Trust needed to upgrade their aging IT infrastructure and equipment and went to tender. But instead of just modernising some of their hardware, they decided to overhaul their whole system, including the processes that everyone had been trained to carry out. In doing so, they have not only embraced new and modern devices, but completely transformed the way they work and, in the process, made data available to the relevant people in real time, with less scope for error.
All personnel have access to IT equipment and hence access to data hosted in datacentres and in the cloud, making the viewing and recording of information easier through handheld or desktop interfaces or the use of bring-your-own devices (BYOD).
This not only reduces the risks of for example misreading a handwritten prescription, but it also means the clinician can select a suitable alternative medication if a particular item is not in stock at the campus pharmacy – or highlight an inventory issue, prioritising the restocking of certain products. Apps have been created that work together with a software solution to enable people to view and record relevant information according to tiered levels – without any of the data being stored locally.
The Trust is building an online portal that will allow in- and outpatients to review their health stats and upload their own data (from personal health-trackers, smart devices or good old-fashioned measurements), which can then be reviewed by the clinicians at their next follow-up meeting, whether in-person on-site or via video link.
This NHS user at least is very happy to hear about the progress made by CUH, and welcomes the steps that have been taken to embrace this modern approach to healthcare. Now, can we please roll this out to other hospital trusts as well?