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Paperless NHS: From Big Paper to Big Data

Friday 29 April 2016

Today I feel green. Not with envy or sickness, but with my environmentally-friendly decision to trade a relatively fast car for a hilariously slow, efficient model. While I will miss the copious assortment of turbocharged stallions under the bonnet and the plush comfort so kindly donated by a generous herd of quadrupedal upholstery-enthusiasts, the huge reductions in fuel consumption and emissions are hard to ignore.

Such efficiencies are a result of harnessing genuine advances in technology. Reducing size while maintaining, or even increasing power is not a new concept: eco-friendly combustion engines continue to shrink and smartphones are becoming more determined to forfeit the third dimension with every new launch.

While the everyday technology around us focuses on increasing usability while decreasing in size, it should be an exciting time for other sectors to embrace the efficiency savings available, investing in future-proof concepts that aid long-term productivity. One evolution, as previously discussed, is fully functional, paperless work environments. With the right BI (Business Intelligence) solution, this can be implemented across an entire organisation, removing the boundaries inherent when dealing with disparate paper-filing systems. In healthcare, it is obvious that a unified, paperless NHS would be a far more efficient, cost-effective organisation. However, the implementation has ground to a halt.

Back in January 2013, the aim was for patients to have online access to their health records by March 2015. This has been missed and, judging by past promises, does not look to be implemented any time soon. Instead, the 2018 target for digital information to be available across all NHS services is another target that has been pushed back to 2020, despite reports pointing to disjointed services and the desperate need for the NHS to become economically sustainable if there is to be any future for the organisation.

The advantages of a paperless NHS extend far beyond eradicating print costs. The wealth of patient data stored in silos scattered across the organisation currently rely on communication via printed records and letters; a far cry from a fast, efficient solution. Bringing the structure into the 21st century would not only change the way patient data is accessed, it would change attitudes.

CXAIR – Inspiring Breakthroughs

By revolutionising the way in which records are viewed across the entire organisation, a paperless NHS powered by CXAIR would inspire a wealth of data-based breakthroughs. The unification of structured and unstructured data has the potential to pinpoint previously undetected correlations to assist healthcare professionals make informed decisions.

With the aid of features such as interactive Venn Diagrams, accident and emergency departments can identify trends in groups of recurring patients to recognise specific risk-factors, leading to targeted treatment campaigns. This information can then be presented using healthcare dashboards, proven to significantly decrease the time spent analysing data by presenting tailor-made infographics to support and quantify cost-effective conclusions.

These examples are only scratching the surface of how effective a unified, paperless NHS can operate. The unique problem the NHS currently faces is that the data is already stockpiled; reluctance to evolve to a new technology platform will result in only more data that has been collected, and subsequently stored, without the aid of a modern analytics platform.

Clearly, there is more than the environmental implications to consider. While my planet-saving behaviour cannot yet be compared to that of Leonardo DiCaprio, a paperless NHS would be a serious contender. If the potential for colossal efficiency savings don’t pique your interest, then perhaps that will.

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