The National Health Service (NHS), the UK’s publicly funded healthcare system, aims to become paperless by 2018. The idea of digitization was put forward by the Secretary of State for Health Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt in January 2013, with the intention to improve services and to address the challenges of an aging population. According to techUK, the U.K’s technology trade association (formerly called Intellect), the success of the digitization project depends on three key principles: data capture, data sharing, and using the information digitally or electronically.
NHS Digitization Goals
- By March 2015, everyone will have online access to their own health records held by their GP
- GPs should be able to use paperless referrals (via email)
- Hospitals should make information available to public, digitally and securely
- Facility for secure linking of EHRs, so as to create a complete record of the care a person receives
- Implementing clear plans for electronic health and care records to be able to follow individuals, with their permission, to any part of the NHS or social care system
- By April 2018 – complete digitization of information, making it fully available across NHS and social care services, except for individuals opting out
TechUK’s Recommendations for a Paperless NHS by 2018
Digital Data Capture
According to techUK, information gathered by the healthcare professionals and patients, should be stored in digital format rather than as digitized images to make data processing and analysis easier. Electronic Data Capture (EDC) systems act as a graphical user interface component for data entry. The system performs all these functions along with validation and analysis of collected data. It has solutions for automated capture of information, ePrescribing/medicine management, clinical and patient management systems, image capture, and reporting and storage.
Digital Data Sharing
Sharing information between healthcare professionals, patients and caretakers is one of the major focus areas of digitization of the NHS by 2018. According to techUK, communication between users and buyers of healthcare solutions is important to build a valuable healthcare system. Lack of proper communication can result in wrong decision making, duplication of services, and other issues. To accomplish data sharing, NHS should have adequate infrastructure for quick and secure sharing of information. Referral systems, portal technology for collecting, accessing, and sharing information, solutions to move and share information, provision for information governance, security and quality are other requirements for efficient sharing of data.
Security of Digital Information
Document security is a prime concern in healthcare. techUK recommends that NHS England needs to invest in education and reassuring healthcare professionals and patients about patient confidentially, including the use of pseudonymisation of data. Pseudonymisation will ensure that any data that is extracted from source systems is not person identifiable. This will allow the NHS to make secondary use of patient data in a legal, safe and secure manner.