Round-filed 'paperless' projects: Barriers remain to Blighty's Digital NHS

Report: It's not going to save money or anything. Plus we'll still need paper


It was hard to hear UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s recent backtracking over his plans for a paperless NHS by 2018, without wondering to what extent digital health documents have contributed to global forest depletion over the last decades.

To some extent all tech programmes in the NHS are still overshadowed by the disastrous electronic patient records project under the canned £11bn National Programme for IT in 2011.

But two more recently scrapped projects were the NHS's security-flawed Apps Library, which was finally shelved following widespread criticism of the site and the plans to anonymise patient information via the Care.data.

Former chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, has also expressed doubts over the further £4.2bn promised to "bring the NHS into the digital age”.

A report by the University of Glasgow today has highlighted some of the continuing barriers and facilitators to implementing a digital health programme.

The study, which was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Strathclyde and Newcastle University, evaluated the £37m digital health programme "Delivering Assisted Living Lifestyles at Scale" between 2012 and 2015.

Factors hindering implementation included a lack of IT infrastructure (including universal broadband); uncertainty around information governance; and trust in the security of digital health platforms.

But it also reckons some of those problems are not insurmountable.

The study lead, Professor Frances Mair, professor of primary care research from the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, recommended investment in digital healthcare at a national and local level, support for the digitally excluded, training the next generation and upgrading the technical capabilities of the health service.

Mair said there are opportunities for improving the quality and accessibility of care and better supporting healthcare professionals. However, she cautioned against seeing digital health as a fix for the problems of the NHS.

“I think digital health is here to stay; it is not going to go away. But we need to invest judiciously and invest in the ability to advance digital health that is worthwhile.

“It is not a panacea and isn’t going to keep people out of hospitals. There’s also no evidence that it is suddenly going cut costs dramatically.”

An example of a more intelligent use of self-serve technology might be diabetic patients saving the time they would have spent going to the doctor by measuring their own blood levels, and sending the information to their doctor via a secure app.

She also said there are some real issue of having an entirely paperless setup, for example if the system were to go down or were to be subjected to cyber attacks.

“I think there huge advantages to electronic systems for efficiencies, as people don’t have to keep repeating information.

"But there are real issues if those systems brought down. So you could say there is a place for some kind of skeleton paper back-up system. But then there are the costs of running two systems.”

Perhaps if the government took less of a "technology for the sake of it" approach to NHS digitisation policy, we might stand a chance of improving services. ®

Similar topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Red Hat Kubernetes security report finds people are the problem
    Puny human brains baffled by K8s complexity, leading to blunder fears

    Kubernetes, despite being widely regarded as an important technology by IT leaders, continues to pose problems for those deploying it. And the problem, apparently, is us.

    The open source container orchestration software, being used or evaluated by 96 per cent of organizations surveyed [PDF] last year by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, has a reputation for complexity.

    Witness the sarcasm: "Kubernetes is so easy to use that a company devoted solely to troubleshooting issues with it has raised $67 million," quipped Corey Quinn, chief cloud economist at IT consultancy The Duckbill Group, in a Twitter post on Monday referencing investment in a startup called Komodor. And the consequences of the software's complication can be seen in the difficulties reported by those using it.

    Continue reading
  • Infosys skips government meeting – and collecting government taxes
    Tax portal wobbles, again

    Services giant Infosys has had a difficult week, with one of its flagship projects wobbling and India's government continuing to pressure it over labor practices.

    The wobbly projext is India's portal for filing Goods and Services Tax returns. According to India's Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), the IT services giant reported a "technical glitch" that meant auto-populated forms weren't ready for taxpayers. The company was directed to fix it and CBIC was faced with extending due dates for tax payments.

    Continue reading
  • Google keeps legacy G Suite alive and free for personal use
    Phew!

    Google has quietly dropped its demand that users of its free G Suite legacy edition cough up to continue enjoying custom email domains and cloudy productivity tools.

    This story starts in 2006 with the launch of “Google Apps for Your Domain”, a bundle of services that included email, a calendar, Google Talk, and a website building tool. Beta users were offered the service at no cost, complete with the ability to use a custom domain if users let Google handle their MX record.

    The service evolved over the years and added more services, and in 2020 Google rebranded its online productivity offering as “Workspace”. Beta users got most of the updated offerings at no cost.

    Continue reading
  • GNU Compiler Collection adds support for China's LoongArch CPU family
    MIPS...ish is on the march in the Middle Kingdom

    Version 12.1 of the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) was released this month, and among its many changes is support for China's LoongArch processor architecture.

    The announcement of the release is here; the LoongArch port was accepted as recently as March.

    China's Academy of Sciences developed a family of MIPS-compatible microprocessors in the early 2000s. In 2010 the tech was spun out into a company callled Loongson Technology which today markets silicon under the brand "Godson". The company bills itself as working to develop technology that secures China and underpins its ability to innovate, a reflection of Beijing's believe that home-grown CPU architectures are critical to the nation's future.

    Continue reading
  • China’s COVID lockdowns bite e-commerce players
    CEO of e-tail market leader JD perhaps boldly points out wider economic impact of zero-virus stance

    The CEO of China’s top e-commerce company, JD, has pointed out the economic impact of China’s current COVID-19 lockdowns - and the news is not good.

    Speaking on the company’s Q1 2022 earnings call, JD Retail CEO Lei Xu said that the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic had brought positive effects for many Chinese e-tailers as buyer behaviour shifted to online purchases.

    But Lei said the current lengthy and strict lockdowns in Shanghai and Beijing, plus shorter restrictions in other large cities, have started to bite all online businesses as well as their real-world counterparts.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022