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December 16, 2013

A paperless NHS could increase efficiency and result in better patient care

Medical staff mainly use handwritten and verbal communication rather than digital, which could lead to inaccuracies.

By Kate Heslop

A Freedom of Information request by Spectralink found that 61% of nurses still use handwritten notes, charts or verbal communication to share patient details, medication notes and discharge instructions.

The information discovered by Spectralink, the wireless solutions provider, found that although there was a goal for a ‘paperless NHS‘ by 2018, the majority of medical staff rely on handwritten notes to communicate vital patient information. Shifting from paper to digital records could increase efficiency and accuracy, which could lead to better patient care.

34% of medical staff made use of electronic records to capture and share some patient details, however these were not available on the ward floor and had to be accessed at a desktop terminal. Only 3% used pagers to transmit patient data.

Of the more than 100 NHS Trusts that responded to the request for information, none had mechanisms in place to record the amount of time healthcare professionals spent checking and relaying messages each day. A study this year by Ponemon found that clinicians wasted more than 45 minutes each day due to the use of outdated communication technologies.

Simon Watson, director at Spectralink commented on the findings: "Nurses and other healthcare professionals play a critical role in our everyday lives and should spend the bulk of their time focused on delivering exceptional patient care. However, we frequently see these highly-trained professionals spending far too much time on administrative tasks and being forced to use inefficient communication methods because they are not given the tools to help them do their jobs more efficiently.

He added: "There seems to be a disconnect between the antiquated technology they have to work with and the expectation of them to deliver life-saving services. This leads to considerable frustration and additional work pressure for care-givers who clearly see the need for improvement."

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