UK: Has Healthcare Informatics Finally Come In From The Cold?

Last Updated: 16 January 2014
Article by Karen Taylor

History does not reflect well on healthcare informatics. The massive National Programme for Information Technology (NPfIT) programme proved to be undeliverable and the loss of political backing at the end of the last decade resulted in it being wound down prematurely, leaving a legacy of some things done well, some partly and some not done at all. The key, essential, element that it was intended to deliver - the interoperable, shared electronic patient record - proved too challenging and was arguably its undoing.

Indeed, attempts to mandate a centralised programme ultimately led to a situation where the information systems and processes in the NHS in England ended up as a patchwork of many different types of computer system on a common, NHS-wide network. Whilst these systems generally provide much of the basic functionality that is needed locally, levels of interoperability between systems are low or non-existent. While  digital records have now been implemented in the overwhelming majority of GP practices, NHS providers in hospitals and other settings are at different stages of digital maturity and many still rely on paper based records and have a substantial amount of work to do to provide clinical staff with easy access to the information needed to provide optimum levels of patient care. Furthermore, this lack of shared patient records constantly undermines the NHSs' ability to deliver the much needed efficiency and productivity improvements. 

The lack of access to patient records is most evident in our treatment of frail elderly patients who turn up at or are transported to their local Accident and Emergency Department with alarming regularity. On arrival, the lack of access to their full medical history means they are often admitted, diagnosed and treated for the admitting condition when better information about the complexity of their health needs could improve their treatment and reduce the scale of readmissions. Indeed, comprehensive information on the patient's condition could help the NHS reduce the need for an emergency admission in the first instance.  

In recognition of this urgent need for high quality data and information so that everybody can make the right decisions at the right time, NHS England have embarked on a series of initiatives to establish a new modern data service. The aim being to provide NHS organisations, citizens and researchers with accurate, timely information which, in turn, is expected to radically transform the way patients are treated and cared for. These include the flagship patient data service, care.data "linking" data from patients' GP records to their hospital records by June 2014, and by 2015:

  • enabling and supporting people to access and interact with their individual health records online
  • re-launching the Choose and Book service to make eReferrals available to patients and health professionals for all secondary care
  • enabling primary care providers to offer the facility to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online
  • supporting hospitals to implement safe and effective electronic prescribing services for their patients.

And by 2018:

  • ensuring  that integrated digital care records become universally available at the point of care for all clinical and care professionals
  • a paperless NHS.

The Government and NHS have invested £1 billion in technology to improve patient care and ease pressure on A&E departments, including a £500 million Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards technology fund. One of the key things this money is intended for is a system that finally allows hospital staff, GP surgeries and out of hours doctors to share access to patients' electronic records. By having this information at their fingertips the intention is that: staff should be able to spend more time seeing patients and less time filling in paperwork; errors should  be reduced and drugs less likely to be prescribed incorrectly because patients' paper notes have been lost.

The biggest challenge though is the Government's requirement that the NHS should be paperless by 2018, which will require local clinicians and health services to come together to find innovative solutions for their patients. However, while the ambition is clear there are doubts that it can be realised. A recent technology survey by the Health Service Journal of 419 health and health IT professionals found that while most think it is a good idea, 91 per cent were concerned that NHS senior managers' lack of knowledge about the clinical and cost benefits of improved IT systems could thwart the 2018 target date for a paperless NHS. With only 29 per cent thinking the target is realistic.

Ironically the lack of joined up working between different parts of the health and social care system is cited as the biggest single reason the sector could fail to achieve the health secretary's ambition – ironic because the lack of a shared patient record and healthcare informatics is regularly cited as the main barrier to integration. Other reasons were cultural problems among staff, lack of funding and the lack of compatibility and integration between different IT systems.

For the sake of patients everywhere we have to hope that the ambitions for an information technology-based NHS does materialise, not only is it important for managing patient information more effectively, it is desperately needed to help deliver the NHS's most pressing business outcomes. These include: integrated, joined-up care; improving the way the patient and healthcare providers interact, with greater patient involvement and shared decision making; and doing more for less,  keeping the operational lights on in the face of  a funding gap of 20 -30 per cent  over next  five years.  Good healthcare informatics is essential, not optional, for the first two outcomes and will help massively with the third.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions