Posted 5th May 2021
To mark the occasion, we’re looking at the ways that digital technology is helping to transform the healthcare sector, making administration more efficient for healthcare professionals, and freeing up vital time and resources to spend on caring for patients.
There’s no doubt that digitalisation will play a role in the future of our healthcare system. With its time and money-saving capabilities, digital technology has the potential to significantly increase efficiency within both the private and public healthcare system, so much so that a whole new digital branch of the NHS, NHSX has been set up to drive digital transformation across the sector.
During the coronavirus pandemic, GP consultations went virtual, taking place either over video or phone. The drastic reduction of face-to-face consultations was implemented to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 between patients and healthcare workers. Platforms such as Doctorlink, which provides video consultations and online triage services, saw a 292% increase during the first nation-wide lockdown, as fears of COVID-19 transmission limited the number of in-person GP appointments. Even as we start to slowly re-open, it’s looking like this digital approach to GP appointments is likely to stick around. As part of the NHS Long Term Plan 2024, all patients will be given the option for ‘digital-first’ primary care, whether that’s a telephone or online consultation. It’s thought that online consultations could help increase efficiency, offering greater flexibility and convenience for both GPs and patients, especially for minor ailments or non-urgent illnesses. Indeed, virtual consultations have the potential to reduce in-person GP appointments by a third, saving over £1 billion a year in the process.
Whilst many NHS trusts adopted electronic health records (EHR) back in 2002, a 2019 study found that a quarter of acute hospital trusts were still using paper records. Digitising paper records makes searching and cross-referencing easier, allowing healthcare professionals to find specific medical information as required. Yet the system still has its drawbacks and limitations, particularly when it comes to system integration. Indeed, only 54% of trusts reported that staff can rely on digital records to find the information they need when they need it, as patient data can be stored across several different systems with minimal co-ordination. NHS Digital is currently tasked with improving system integration and interoperability and have recently signed a deal with DXC Technology and Australia’s national science agency CSIRO to improve data sharing and integrated care across healthcare organisations.
As part of the NHS’s goal to go paperless, electronic prescriptions are becoming standard across GP surgeries and NHS trusts. As prescriptions are sent directly from the doctor to the patient’s chosen pharmacy, e-prescriptions cut out the middleman, and eliminate the need for a paper-based prescription. This is particularly useful for patients who require repeat prescriptions, as they can simply collect their medication from the pharmacy when needed, without having to arrange it themselves and go back and forth between the GP and the pharmacy. Embracing e-prescriptions is yet another way of bringing the NHS into the 21st century and harnessing technology to improve efficiency, free up time and save money on paper-based processes. It also makes life easier for patients, who are less involved in the process thanks to electronic automation.
E-Sign are proud to have been working with the NHS for over 6 years. We currently provide digital solutions to support patient prescription processing, patient group direction (mass vaccination programmes), clinical trials and patient safeguarding.
By moving away from paper-based processes and embracing digitalisation, the NHS has benefitted from streamlined workflow, improved efficiency, and centralised document management. In a fast-pace setting such as the Healthcare sector, paper-based administration slows things down, and takes valuable time away from patients.
Thanks to E-Sign’s digital solutions, NHS staff can now spend less time processing paperwork and more time caring for patients and ensuring they get the treatment they need. With electronic signatures providing a fully traceable audit trail, going digital has also resulted in greater compliance and accountability, helping to improve overall patient experience and safety.
No matter what the future holds for digitalisation in the healthcare sector, one think remains clear; nurses will continue to provide that much needed human touch to patient care. Whether they’re filling in paperwork or collecting digital notes, the 6 Cs of nursing, Care, Compassion, Competence, Communication, Courage and Commitment, will continue to shine through, providing the comfort and care that all patients need on their road to recovery. Thank you, nurses!
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