The recently announced £4bn planned investment to transform the NHS into a digital healthcare system over the next five years reiterates the national commitment to creating a more efficient, paper-free NHS. And while full details of how the investment will be allocated and accessed are still being agreed by the Department of Health and NHS England, the directive to implement clinically-driven systems, as opposed to technology-driven ones, has been made abundantly clear.
The 2020 vision
The paper-free NHS project, originally announced in 2013 by Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, was motivated by the opportunity to save billions in healthcare costs and improve the service. This, just after the widely reported abandonment of an NHS IT system that was said to cost in excessive of £10bn, was perhaps the premise for re-focussing IT implementation in health services on clinical processes, rather than the technology itself.
The next step in realising a paperless NHS hinges on the development of local digital roadmaps led by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), in collaboration with local authorities, providers, citizens and other stakeholders, that will inform future health IT funding decisions aimed at improving clinical processes.
Due to be submitted by June 2016, the roadmaps are an opportunity for Trusts and CCGs to work together with software suppliers to understand the course they need to take to meet the paper-free mandate and realise true transformation in clinical services supported by the right digital systems.
Coordinating the clinical landscape
In the drive towards clinical transformation, there’s a growing recognition that effective care coordination not only improves the patient experience and continuity of care, but also reduces costs. Supported by the Personalised Health and Care 2020 stipulation that ‘all patient and care records will be digital, interoperable and real-time by 2020’ – this offers Trusts a benchmark to review current systems against and identify new suppliers who can deliver on the requirements.
Trusts that have already migrated to some level of paper-light or paper-free services will most likely acknowledge that a single system is not enough to meet the 2020 vision of digital patient records. What is important is a systems’ ability to be interoperable with other systems so that records can be securely accessed and utilised by multiple care teams where and when they need them.
Silverlink, with its vast experience working with clinicians and the NHS to design patient-centred solutions, understand that integrating with existing systems, such as an EPR platform, is key to ensuring information is available and accurate, while greatly reducing the data burden on clinicians by eliminating the capture duplicate data.
Clinically-driven systems also need to support clinician’s workflow, and not the other way around. This is becoming more and more important as patient care is managed by multidisciplinary teams (MDTs). Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated the success of multidisciplinary teams and as a result, MDTs are becoming more commonplace particularly in treating the UK’s ageing population and growing rate of cancer incidences.
It’s crucial that Trusts and CCGs recognise this change in care delivery and choose solutions that support MDTs when developing Digital Roadmap and Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
Improving clinical practice with clinical systems
Along with the growing number of patients who require long-term care, is the increasing need for out-of-hospital care. This highlights another key component to realising a digital NHS – an effectively coordinated and integrated care, centred on the patient, and just as is the case with stroke patients, who receive long-term rehabilitation therapy and outpatient treatment.
CCGs and Trusts navigating their roadmaps should also take into account how patient trends and expectations will shape systems requirements. More patients are actively participating in managing their health, from self-monitoring and submitting their data to booking appointments using digital platforms like NHS Choose and Book. Enabling patients to interact with and manage their patient journey is therefore another fundamental system requirement that CCGs need to factor into their roadmaps.
In order to truly deliver on the objectives of the paper-free mandate, many Trusts will opt for fewer fixed workstations, favouring mobile and portable solutions to capture and access data at the patient bedside and throughout their patient journey from in-hospital care to remote, community-based care.
To that end, Trusts will need to look for digital solutions have the capabilities to capture electronic assessments and patient treatment plans offline and in real-time, and synchronise with the facility’s EPR system. Essentially, Trusts should aim for true secure mobility – in other words connecting different elements of care and services without having to use different systems for each one.
It also means not being tied to a particular device. It’s safe to assume that not all Trust infrastructure will be replaced immediately, so choosing a device-neutral supplier whose systems can run off of any device, would result in faster benefit realisation – not least of all the cost saving of not having to replace infrastructure.
Lastly, Trusts developing STPs and CCGs designing Digital Roadmaps should be looking at solutions that won’t simply replace paper processes with digital ones by 2020 but rather, digital systems that can actively help create a connected, coordinated, cost effective modern health service.
Silverlink Software’s best-of-breed solutions are designed in line with NHS best practice and go beyond reporting requirements to give clinicians the clinical insights that can dramatically transform clinical performance. It’s access to this sort of insight that not only sets Silverlink apart from most suppliers, but it is exactly the foundation from which CCGs and Trusts should collaboratively develop their digital roadmaps to bring tangible, measurable transformation to the service that is good for patients.