A Day in the Life of a Paperless NHS

‘NHS Trusts which adopt digital technologies are more cost-effective and ensure better outcomes for patients.’

Our previous blog post explored the regulatory issues surrounding the new Digital Maturity Assessment and Roadmap – introduced by the Five Year Forward View. The second in a series, this blog provides key examples which explain how digital technologies will improve the NHS by 2020.

Patient Engagement:

Patients who access their (electronic) medical data take responsibility for their chronic illnesses, which are increasingly common and maximize the value of consultations. This has already been a success with GP records, reflects one Huddersfield GP:

“At first I was quite nervous about the prospect of patients accessing information that they may not understand, or that they may find upsetting.” “This all changed when one of my diabetic patient’s signed up. Almost immediately I could see a positive change. My patient started preparing ahead of his consultation by accessing his latest test results and comparing them to past results. This has meant the 10 minutes we get together is very productive. Ten months down the line, I am even seeing this patient’s controls are improving.”

By 2020, a larger range of medical data will be accessible to the patient, which will be vital for the management of chronic conditions and maximizing the value of patient appointments.

Better Treatments, Fewer Errors:

Quick access to a full patient history and an ability to share vital information at the touch of a button, allow health care professionals to provide more timely and accurate interventions – improving healthcare outcomes. Meanwhile electronic systems which work with clinicians reduce error rates in treatment.

An electronic whiteboard greatly improves the direction of the team, enables staff to perform their roles more efficiently and enhances teamwork. It is clearer, more reliable and easier to maintain. It represents a significant improvement upon the often haphazard practice of maintaining a traditional whiteboard alongside a computer system. (Barts Hospital Trust)

An intuitive electronic early warning scoring system, shares real time data with the right people in the right way, enabling rapid assessment and timely intervention. Patients at risk of sepsis, for example, can be managed earlier and more effectively, with the added benefit of helping to address the risks of increased anti-microbial in the population as a whole (Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust).

Digital technologies provide great opportunities to improve the quality of care by delivering a ‘more complete picture’ of a patient’s needs and a clinician’s priorities. The ability to present and organize this information in a useful way reduces the error rate.

Preventative Medicine

Digital technologies greatly enhance secondary prevention systems, (the systematic detection of early stages of disease and intervention before full symptoms), by identifying vulnerable groups and ensuring preventative treatment is offered.

Analyzing information across the complete patient pathway, in combination with socio-economic and environment factors that contribute to health and well being, allows high risk individuals to be identified. This requires interoperable and machine readable data from across the health economy (Kent County Council Public Health).

Allows clinicians, particularly GPs, to access test results and check whether an at risk individual has already been prescribed secondary prevention (Kent County Council Public Health).

Healthcare economies must take advantage of digital technology to move towards preventative medicine, increase the quality of life for vulnerable individuals – and reduce the spend on later acute care.

Lower Costs:

Digital technologies don’t simply improve patient treatments and outcomes; they also provide significant cost savings – freeing up resources which can be better spent else where. Several NHS Trusts have already made significant efficiency savings through paperless technology, through, for example:

Reduced duplication of tasks as data only needs to be entered once into one system and workarounds to convert paper based information into an electronic format are avoided (Bart’s NHS Health Trust).

Reduced overhead when investigating breaches: as managers can access the information they need to manage the department more effectively (Bart’s NHS Health Trust).

Time to care savings: better access to information will mean that doctors and nurses can stop doing the admin and spend more time looking after patients. A group of three trusts, save nearly £5m per annum in time to care benefits for junior doctors and nurses (Multiple NHS Trusts*)

NHS Trust’s must take advantage of digital technology to reduce costs – under governmental spending cuts – whilst maintaining a high quality of care for patients.


Digital technologies provide many opportunities to improve patient care, and make treatments safer. CCGs and NHS Trusts must seize these opportunities in order to provide high quality care in the face of increasing healthcare challenges, such as an aging population and increased lifestyle related diseases, and restricted departmental spending.

The third and final instalment of this blog series will explore how the Digital Maturity Assessment and Roadmap can be used to realise improvement.

*Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Heatherwood and Wexham Park NHS Hospital Trust – used as examples
Niamh has 25 years of experience at senior levels in health provision, commissioning, policy making and research internationally and is the firm’s lead advisor for NHS and local government transformation. Niamh specializes in strategic delivery of innovative models of care across organisational boundaries and real-world implementation of public sector policies using rapid evaluation and learning cycle methods to inform implementation and provide real time feedback to decision-makers, frontline staff and service users. 

James Beaney is an assistant consultant at Optimity Advisors. He draws on academic experience with analytics and geographic information systems to advise clients within the public policy and healthcare industries. 



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