SynApps Supports The Renewed Commitment To A Paperless NHS

medical-781422_1280We’ve been hearing about a paperless NHS for some time – after all, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, first issued his challenge for the health service to be fully digital in 2013.

You would be forgiven for being a bit sceptical about how realistic that plan was, given that under this and the last government any top-down National Programme for IT level endeavour was simply never going to get the funding.

Well, there’s less and less basis for such a view, given the strength of the renewal of the paperless challenge this month.

At an important conference in Manchester on innovation in the NHS, the Secretary re-iterated his challenge – stating that he wants at least 15% of all NHS patients routinely accessing NHS advice, services and medical records through apps by the end of the next financial year.

Hunt’s team says it wants all patients able to access their own GP electronic record online in full, seeing not just a summary of their allergies and medication but blood test results, appointments and medical histories – by 2016.

By 2018, this record will include information from all their health and care interactions. Meanwhile, at the same event, NHS England also weighed in, with Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information, warning that the average Trust spends between £500,000 and £1m per year managing its internal paper mountain.

“Health and social care services in England must end the unnecessary reliance on paper in the treatment of patients,” notes Kelsey, adding digital is the “key” to making services “safer, more effective and more efficient”: “Every day, care is held up and patients are kept waiting while an army of people transport and store huge quantities of paper round our healthcare system”.

“This approach is past its sell by date… We need to consign to the dustbin of history the industry in referral letters, the outdated use of fax machines and the trolleys groaning with patients’ notes” (see more here).

VNA is leading the charge to a paperless NHS

Here at SynApps Solutions, we couldn’t be more delighted that leaders like Hunt and Kelsey have called for a redoubling of efforts on the paperless target, plus the practical help Kelsey’s team is putting in, with a series of guides due this Autumn to help Trusts get on the digital road.

We’re delighted, as we have seen the benefits of Trusts going digital already – in the shape of our growing roster of leading-edge Trust VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive) projects.

NHS organisations that have made the move include Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, London’s Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, Northampton General Hospital and the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

These customers have used VNA as the basis for managing not just complex DICOM radiology data but more and more of their clinical/patient data, too.

They see the VNA approach as a portal to just the kind of full, digital electronic patient record that the National Programme promised but ultimately couldn’t deliver – such as Northampton’s Deputy Director of ICT, Christina Malcolmson, has said, “Our new SynApps on-site VNA has a zero-footprint viewer, which means clinicians (and ultimately patients) can look at images on any device, including tablets.

“At the moment, that’s just PACS images – but we will grow it and include other images and documents, so we can have a full EPR over time,” she adds.

You can’t hold progress back

Hunt’s call for open access to patient records has to be based on this kind of standards-based technology.

That’s probably why Trusts are also looking to exploit the power of Open Source – which in many instances is proving to bridge the gap to great new solutions that the lack of central big funding presents.

The conclusion seems inescapable. Paperless is coming – you have to deliver on this promise.

And VNA, open standards and open source seems genuinely the on-ramp to meet what was a 2018 target – but which now seems to be a 2016 one!

We’d love to help you get there – come and talk to the SynApps health team to find out more.

Tony Backhouse
Head of SynApps Solutions’ Health Practice