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Electronic, paperless NHS could save billions each year

By News team

Widespread use of the electronic prescription service is among measures that could save the NHS £4bn a year, says a report on more effective use of technology in the NHS.

The report was published this week by the Department of Health, along with best practice guidance on mobile working in healthcare (16 January 2013). The documents prompted health secretary Jeremy Hunt to call for the NHS to go paperless by 2018, a move he says could improve care, save billions and allow health professionals to spend more time with patients.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange, Mr Hunt said he would like all patients to be able to access their electronic health records by March 2015. Furthermore, records should be accessible across the health and social care system so that health professionals can readily view the medical history of patients in their care, and share crucial information.

Howard Duff, Royal Pharmaceutical Society director for England, said: “Fully digital and integrated patient records across the NHS would make an enormous difference to patient care. To get the most out of this, pharmacists should have appropriate read-write access to these records. The RPS is working across the profession on an IT strategy which has this outcome as one of its key aims.”

More text messaging and ePrescribing

Additional measures suggested by the report include wider use of text messages for communicating negative test results. Electronic prescribing is also recommended, with benefits such as improved prescription accuracy and decreases in adverse drug reactions highlighted.

The report was commissioned by the DoH and carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, with the aim of “[setting] a challenge to the NHS system by raising the profile of, and drawing attention to, the benefits that a highly ambitious approach to the use of information and technology could deliver”.

The actions outlined in the report add to proposals already put forward in the DoH information and technology strategy, published in May 2012.

The best practice guidance examined pilot schemes using mobile technology for health workers, and found that significant time was freed up that could be spent with patients.

Following publication of the report, Mr Hunt said: “The revolution that has transformed so much of our daily lives has only just started to touch healthcare. . . we need to embrace that revolution with enthusiasm.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11115264

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