Moving towards a paperless NHS

Moving towards a paperless NHS

Scott Sommerville, Chief Information Officer at Essentia, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, considers the benefits a paperless NHS could bring…

Technology has become an essential part of almost every aspect of our daily lives. We rely on it to improve the speed, efficiency and ease with which we do things – from shopping and booking holidays to keeping in touch with friends. There is much debate about how quickly we can bring this level of technology to the hospital environment – and the impact it will have. Some remain wary or even sceptical, but I believe it’s the only way forward for a modern NHS trust.

At Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, the ambition is to become a paper-light and data-rich organisation creating a truly digital health system.

I see 4 main benefits for the paperless trust:

  • Improved patient care – A paperless system is patient-centred, with improved patient safety and a reduced margin of error, as well as integrated, seamless care with records and information transferred quickly and easily between departments and healthcare organisations.
  • Improved efficiency – saving time and resources, with less time spent waiting for records to arrive or tracking them down. Patients do not have to repeat their medical history for each clinician.
  • More time for staff to spend with patients – reducing the paperwork burden frees up staff time considerably, resulting in better patient care, higher motivation levels and staff retention.
  • Cost savings – Increased resource, faster turnaround times, and better patient care, will lead to financial savings for the NHS.

We are seeing this in action already, for example, the introduction of paperless prescriptions has led to safer and faster medicine prescribing. Our electronic system gives an integrated view of a patient’s medication history which can be seen by all staff involved in administering or supplying medicine.

Our paperless rota system enables staff to create, manage and change rotas electronically, including swapping shifts and booking leave. This has saved a huge amount of time and effort and the increased efficiency has helped the Trust to meet the ever increasing demands on its service.

We are also piloting our own innovative paperless patient records system. The system captures clinical observations electronically, replacing the paper records and documents currently handwritten and filed in patient folders. Patients are enjoying not having to give their personal details and medical history repeatedly, while staff are spending less time completing, chasing or interpreting notes.

Alongside all this, we are putting in place the rigorous infrastructure needed to provide round-the-clock support and full mobile working. Paperless systems are only useful if operational performance and business continuity are assured.

The total investment in technology at Guy’s and St Thomas’ is significant. I have no doubt the investment will be worth it for the savings it will generate, not to mention the improved patient safety and the significantly better experience for our patients and our staff.

Scott Sommerville

Chief Information Officer

Essentia, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust


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