With the NHS set to go paperless by 2020, the digital overhaul is already well underway. Although this enormous task is one fraught with potential set-backs and challenges, it is imperative to the survival of the service. Here, Lee Copestake, technical director at BookWise Solutions, explains why going digital is so important.
Health bosses are all too aware of the challenging times that they face. An increasingly ageing population and a rise in the number of complex conditions caused by obesity or excessive alcohol consumption, coupled with the growing cost of treatments and constricting budgets, will continue to burden the already strained NHS. Streamlining services and improving efficiency across all areas is vital to ensure operations can continue and digitalisation will play a key part in this objective.
Evidence of the digital transformation can already be seen in the increasing use of electronic records. Moving away from hard-copy files has a vast array of benefits, including ease of access for both practitioners and patients. This ‘joined-up’ approach allows detailed information to be shared confidentially, allowing strategic decisions to be made, resulting in better patient outcomes.
In an effort to offset the increasing demand on the service, ways to reduce the administrative pressure on staff are also being implemented where possible. Although tasks, like booking appointments or sourcing rooms, may seem straight forward, the use of scheduling software negates the chance of human error, and streamlines what can be a time consuming process. To meet the NHS targets for consultation waiting times, which are now set at only 18 weeks, double booked appointments and failing to maximise the use of facilities are something health providers cannot afford.
The ability to easily and quickly schedule last minute appointments has the added benefit of reducing pressure on other parts of the NHS. It is widely documented that if patients cannot access primary care, they may admit to themselves to A&E instead.
Scheduling software is proving particularly effective in hospital renal departments, where large volumes of dialysis patients need to be seen each day. A report we conducted into renal healthcare in England highlighted that practitioners are finding it increasingly difficult to manage appointments and waiting times using paper diaries. With the number of people living with kidney disease projected to reach 40,000 by next year, an increase of 20,000 since 2008, a move towards digitisation is very much needed in this area.
Although scheduling software can have a huge impact on maximising the use of available resources, its use should be coupled with automated reminder services to minimise missed appointments, which costs the NHS millions of pounds a year.
The growing pressure healthcare professionals are facing, leaves little room for avoidable error and wasted time. While implementing new digital processes requires buy-in from teams and investment in training, the benefits will be paramount and may prove to be crucial to maintaining the level of care strived for.
For more information on BookWise Solutions and their healthcare scheduling software, visit www.bookwisesolutions.com.