Creating a truly paperless hospital

Posted on: September 14, 2018 by Elaine Bennett

Many organizations have an aspiration to become paperless. There are huge benefits – for the environment, for efficiency and, of course, for service users themselves. While healthcare services need to be delivered cost-effectively, becoming paperless is much more than that. It’s about delivering better care in the face of complex demands, enhancing the patient experience, and improving day-to-day working for hospital staff.

Rising demand

Whilst the technology already exists for hospitals to become paperless, making the vision a reality has been a complex challenge for many. Yet today there are reasons to believe that hospitals are now on the way to becoming paperless.

  • There is user demand. Increasingly, patients want to book appointments and communicate with clinicians using digital tools.
  • There’s also growing appetite among clinicians – especially digital natives.
  • With wearables, analytics and other digital solutions, hospitals can achieve so much more proactive patient management, reducing hospital admissions and lengths of stay.
  • As cyber threats evolve, safeguarding patient data with modern, secure systems is high on hospitals’ agendas.

So, what’s next on the journey to paperless hospitals? On 23 May, I had the pleasure of facilitating a meeting of leaders and innovators from hospitals across England, to explore the question.

Agile transformation

We were lucky to have with us Vicent Moncho Mas, Chief Information Officer at Marina Salud hospital[1] in Spain, for which we provide the IT infrastructure. With the hospital leading Europe in the paperless hospital quest, Vicent talked through the transformation programme that the hospital has implemented to become paperless.

Marina Salud had the benefit of opening a new hospital in 2009. Leadership commitment from day one was to be paperless wherever possible, with a plan to eliminate all paper over time. Now, the only papers are consent forms, which we are now helping to digitise using digital patient signatures.

Vicent talked through the hospital’s journey:

  • The road to defining requirements for different specialities,
  • Progressing with an integrated solution across primary and secondary care,
  • Achieving process standardisation,
  • And delivering change in an agile way.

Implementation included a network of ‘super-user’ nurses in the early stage, then a transformation office with a support center for clinicians, and now a series of truly agile projects. Key milestones were:

  • The adoption of Electronic Medical Records as a central pillar;
  • Establishing and embedding the nursing workflow electronically;
  • And the use of templates for clinicians on the Electronic Health records to speed up progress.

Key lessons

The learning from Marina Salud? Firstly, a paperless hospital is achievable. I also took away the huge importance of clinical buy-in and the hospital’s effectiveness in achieving this, the vital role of collaboration to understand requirements and get the right training in place, and the critical part that strong leadership and a clear vision played in the hospital’s success.

So, where are main areas of focus for hospitals now?

Collaboration, investment and buy-in

As Will Smart, Chief Information Officer at NHS England set out so powerfully at the same event, there’s now a critical need to share learning and solutions between hospitals who are all on the same journey – supported by ongoing investment in core IT infrastructure and inter-operability so that technologies can function optimally.

Success also depends on strong clinical, technical and operational leadership in combination; like any other digital change, becoming paperless is less about technology and much more about gaining buy-in and managing the change in high-pressure, fast-moving hospital environments.

The reality is that paper is proven to introduce major potential for risk, delays and inefficiencies – a point I was reminded of first-hand, having experienced the stark contrast between traditional paper-based environments and one of today’s paperless hospitals. I was struck during my recent visit to Marina Salud at how liberating it is for the staff to operate in a paperless environment.

Becoming paperless demands significant cultural and organizational change, but it is vital for modern and effective healthcare services.

Learn more in Look Out 2020+ for Healthcare ‘Pioneering the way to precision medicine’ where we explore the business opportunities and key technologies which will shape the future of Healthcare.

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About Elaine Bennett

Head of Health, Business and Platform Solutions, UK&I
Elaine is Head of Health, Business and Platform Solutions, UK&I. She is passionate about bringing innovation, digital transformation and technology to our much valued health clients. Elaine has extensive experience of working with the NHS to shape strategy and delivery. Prior to her current role, Elaine led Atos Health Consulting, UK&I. Prior to joining Atos, Elaine held a number of health consulting director roles and a number of board level roles in the NHS.

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