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NHS England technology plan to offer full patient records online and free Wi-Fi everywhere

NHS England hopes to save as much of a third of its predicted £22bn budget deficit through better use of technology and data by 2020

NHS patients in England will have access to their full medical records online and updated in real time by 2018, according to technology plans unveiled by the health service.

NHS England also hopes to offer free Wi-Fi in every part of its estate and make increasing use of wearable technology to help monitor patients.  

Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s national director for patients and information, said better use of technology and data could save as much as a third of the £22bn budget deficit predicted for the health service by 2020.

“The pace at which clinicians are grabbing hold of technological advances is incredible. The prize is an effective healthcare service for all,” said Kelsey.

“As well as giving patients more choice and control, better use of technology can save money. [For example] letting people re-book online will help tackle the estimated £160m that missed appointments cost the NHS each year,” he said. 

Currently GPs only offer online access to a summary care record, not patients’ full records – although so far only 0.4% of GP patients who can access their records online have actually done so.

Kelsey highlighted recent successes, such as 97% of GP patients having access to online appointment bookings and electronic prescriptions.

“More than a third of all ambulance services share patients’ records digitally with accident and emergency departments in summary form, granting doctors, nurses and care staff speedy access to critical clinical information – a huge increase on this time last year,” Kelsy said.

“The installation of Wi-Fi will open up the possibilities for wearables to be used to monitor patients in clinical settings. For example, research shows over a fifth of patients with diabetes will have experienced a largely avoidable hypoglycemic episode while in hospital. This technology will help doctors to detect deterioration early and act without delay.

“In the future, Wi-Fi will allow doctors and managers to track patients on their journey through hospital, helping to ensure patients are always taken to the right ward. It also gives a more accurate picture of patient flow,” he added.

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Further details on the proposals are due to be published by the National Information Board, with the final roadmaps to be released in September after discussions with patients and the NHS.

The challenges for NHS England in developing technologies were highlighted earlier this week, when the e-Referral service for online hospital outpatient appointment bookings was launched, despite having 33 known issues. The system subsequently crashed and was temporarily suspended two days later.

The NHS has a chequered history when it comes to major IT reforms, with the failed £12bn National Programme for IT leaving a “toxic legacy”, according to Beverley Bryant, director of strategic systems and technology for NHS England.

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“News that the NHS hopes to offer free Wi-Fi in every part of its estate for increasing use of wearable technology is one that the medical profession will welcome. This will benefit doctors, speeding up their access to information and improving communication, and ultimately providing even better patient care.”

“However, this move will mean that there will be a huge amount of confidential data being shared across devices. In order to avoid compromising the confidentiality of this information, hospitals must make sure each and every touch point is secured. If this isn’t treated as a top priority as the industry becomes more reliant on mobile devices, they could well be faced with the repercussions of a data leak or breach.

“Network Access Control (NAC) and role-based provisioning are two solutions that hospitals can call on to make sure that internal or external breaches are avoided. These solutions give the IT department the power to provide staff at all levels with access to the network depending on their role. All types of users, from guests, to employees, to executive management have their own predetermined set of policies, enabling them to remain productive but only have access to what they need relevant to their position. These policies can then be managed and defined centrally through a single pane-of-glass management system – condensing and boiling down control to one window and automatically pushing policies to all switches in the network, eliminating tedious manual programming, and enhancing operational efficiency.”
By Bob Zemke, director of healthcare solutions, Extreme Networks