The majority of UK nurses and medical staff continue to rely on handwritten notes and corridor conversations to communicate vital patient information, despite the pledge to create a ‘paperless NHS’ by 2018, a recent Freedom of Information request has revealed.
The move from paper to digital records is designed to increase efficiency and accuracy and, more importantly, offer a better level of patient care. However, the Freedom of Information request made by in-building wireless solutions provider, Spectralink, found that 61% of nurses still use handwritten notes, charts or verbal communication to share patient details, medication notes and discharge instructions.
Furthermore, a third (34%) made use of electronic records to capture and share some patient details. However, these were not available on the ward floor and had to be accessed at a desktop terminal. Just three per cent used pagers to transmit patient data.
“Nurses and other healthcare professionals play a critical role in our everyday lives and should spend the bulk of their time focused on delivering exceptional patient care,” said Simon Watson, director at Spectralink. “However, we frequently see these highly-trained professionals spending far too much time on administrative tasks and being forced to use inefficient communication methods because they are not given the tools to help them do their jobs more efficiently.
“There seems to be a disconnect between the antiquated technology they have to work with and the expectation of them to deliver life-saving services. This leads to considerable frustration and additional work pressure for care-givers who clearly see the need for improvement.”
Of the more than 100 NHS Trusts that responded to the request for information, none had mechanisms in place to record the amount of time healthcare professionals spent checking and relaying messages each day.
A 2013 Ponemon study found that clinicians wasted more than 45 minutes each day due to the use of outdated communication technologies. Estimating based on the number of nurses employed by the NHS in 2012 delays such as these could have cost the healthcare body approximately £1.1 billion per year.
Digital records also help reduce the level of error when sharing important patient care and medication data. At present, very few NHS Trusts record instances of information being relayed incorrectly. However, a worrying eight per cent noted a significant number of communication issues in the last two years.
Combining digital records with a secure, mobile communication solution can greatly reduce the risk of error by allowing nurses to access patient data or receive treatment instructions at the bedside.
Watson continued: “We believe the move to a paperless NHS is the right one for the UK healthcare system, but clearly there are still barriers to this transition. With the right tools and technologies, doctors and nurses can have instant access to the patient data they need to make the best decisions for the patient.
“Our Spectralink CARE solutions allow doctors and nurses to move about the wards freely while still having access to diagnostic alerts and patient data. Integrating these mobile devices with nurse call systems further improves patient care by alerting the right nurse, with the right skills for that patient.
“Deployed correctly, it also ensures this is the closest nurse in order to further improve response times. Using the right technology ensures valuable nursing time is freed up, allowing staff to focus on delivering the best possible patient care and reducing the needless miles walked every day by nursing staff,” said Watson.