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Andrew Frost explains how 'paper on glass' technology can help health organisations embrace a paperless future.

As the countdown to the NHS’ 2018 paper ban nears, the pressure is building for health organisations to make the switch to electronic medical records (EMR).

The challenge set by Jeremy Hunt to achieve a paperless healthcare system by 2018 has resulted in concerns amongst many, mainly at the prospect of how to achieve the transition with minimal disruption to workflow and without causing a negative impact on the patient experience.

The initiative is seeking to improve access to patient records at the point of care, increase efficiency, and subsequently reduce spending.

Embracing change

Regardless of the benefits, there is understandable anxiety about ditching paper medical records following the NHS’s last failed attempt to go paperless, which resulted in the expensive demise of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

To give the paperless NHS initiative the best chance of success, staff must be encouraged to “buy in” to the technology prior to changes being introduced, and on an ongoing basis with regular training sessions.

“Vitro” is one technology that is beginning to receive traction in the field as a simple solution for transforming paper records into a digital-friendly format.

Vitro is a platform that allows hospitals to take their paper documents and processes and rapidly create electronic versions, while importantly retaining the familiar look of the paper chart. By using the paper documents already in use in hospitals as electronic templates, Vitro retains the look and feel of a paper chart while user controls and scripting add the intelligence. Integration with other hospital systems provides a complete medical record, subsequently enhancing user experience and increasing adoption.

Vitro is accessed via a flexible web-based interface which is available on mobile devices generally used by clinicians. Its “offline” mode also makes it ideal for homecare workers and nurses who travel between hospitals and across wards.

A simple solution for enabling innovation

The technology is already demonstrating its ability to deliver real patient benefits and has been pivotal in reshaping the chemotherapy manufacturing process at the world-class cancer treatment centre, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, which has placed its trust in this technology.

Due to its ability to “bridge the gap” between paper-based and online records, Vitro is driving the transition to EMR with benefits including an improved patient journey, speedier diagnosis and treatment leading to better patient outcomes and hospital efficiencies

With a little help from cloud computing, this could revolutionise the way that doctors and nurses operate by speeding up what can be a laborious task and also minimising the risks associated with the pen and paper method of vital note taking, such as handwriting legibility and infection control. The results could also benefit patients who need to secure access to their own medical records online.

The digital move is inevitable and something healthcare providers will have to embrace sooner or later, so it is important for healthcare providers to get to grips with all the available technology, and engage staff as early as possible in selecting and implementing it. Staff that understand and have already bought into a solution are more likely to embrace change than fight against it.

About Andrew Frost

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