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Can IT integration really reduce NHS paperwork?

We all moan about paperwork. We all think we have too much of it, and most people blame inefficiencies and a lack of integration on having to do it. Politicians constantly promise to free up business, or the public sector, by cutting. “We will cut red tape!” is the constant electioneering cry.

Paperwork is fundamental for the NHS

But in medicine more than most industries, paperwork is crucial. It allows the recording of what has been done; what meds have been given; what a patient's vital signs are. Surely we should praise paperwork in the NHS? When I worked at an acute trust I often spent time talking to GPs about how we could improve communication. Their plea was always for more paperwork – as long as it was on time – as they often had patients coming in to see them assuming they knew what had happened at hospital last week!

How much is too much?

A report published recently showed that perhaps we have gone too far. The realwire website reported on a survey, Clinicians Spend 50% of their Working Day Dealing with Documentation carried out by independent research company Ignetica, which showed that in fact Doctors are now spending over half their time on completing clinical documentation. More than that, almost an hour a day was spent searching for the right information to put on the paperwork.

So we have a conundrum. We support the use of crucial paperwork in our health services, but surely would want to reduce the burden and the time spent. If 50% of available time is away from patients, we don’t seem to have got the right balance.

IT integration is an opportunity

There is an opportunity here. Lots of Trusts are in the process of reviewing their information technology. Mergers, re-organisations, new senior teams, CQC reports are all used as drivers to revisit the systems we use. Are they fit for purpose? Do they help us do our job? Can we make them slicker, or quicker, or at least simpler? Issues include:

  • Governance – an over complicated governance structure can multiply paperwork;

  • Structure – a poor structure results in disconnects and duplication of paperwork;

  • Capability and Capacity – deficient capability and capacity leads to a reliance on paperwork.

Our argument would be that spending a bit of time and money getting this step right will pay huge dividends in the future. If you do the audit right now, and consider IT integration in your Trust or CCG strategic plans, then you won’t be spending the next ten years having the same conversation about paperwork.

We help Trusts and CCGs like yours with these challenges. If you want to discuss your needs for IT integration please give us a ring – we promise there are no forms to fill in.

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