What is the first step in the healthcare industry’s digital journey?

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The healthcare sector’s digital transformation journey has ignited a flurry of discussions, with an emphasis on the role of AI and smart solutions in revolutionizing patient care. In fact, the government recently allocated a £13m investment aimed at research for using AI in healthcare.

The potential held by AI in this industry is truly exciting. It offers the ability to analyze extensive healthcare data at an unparalleled pace and accuracy, presenting a wide array of potential applications that span from diagnostics to predicting disease outbreaks.

But whilst looking to the future, it appears that several vital steps have been overlooked if the government intends to capitalize on the chance to enhance patient care and the clinician experience sooner rather than later. This transformation is not a leap but a series of strategic steps. The initial stride in this complex journey is digitizing patient record systems using electronic document management systems (EDMS), a move that promises to reshape the landscape of healthcare delivery, patient experience and operational efficiency.


Working in the dark ages

In the midst of conversations about AI’s potential to reshape healthcare, the glaring reality of paper-based manual processes within the NHS cannot be overlooked. In a world where technology is reshaping industries at a rapid pace, the healthcare sector’s reliance on paper medical records and manual workflows stands as a barrier to progress. To truly unlock the potential of AI and smart solutions, the foundation must be laid, and that foundation is digital patient records.

Medical records form the backbone of healthcare decision-making. They provide clinicians with insights that inform critical treatment choices. Yet, with many NHS Trusts still navigating paper medical records and manual workflows, daily operations suffer from inefficiencies, financial burdens, and environmental strains.

Surprisingly, over 100 acute hospitals continue to rely on paper-based medical record systems – according to our company data – incurring operating costs exceeding £1m per Trust annually just to ensure the timely delivery of patient records. Such outdated practices deter the healthcare industry from embracing the efficiency and advancement that technology can offer.


Funding challenges

Central to this challenge is the issue of funding. The NHS operates within financial constraints, making it increasingly challenging to secure resources for cutting-edge technology implementation. The government’s ambitions for digitization require funding alignment, but the economic climate raises questions about its feasibility. While recent leveling-up funding is a positive step, the healthcare sector demands more significant support to accelerate digital maturity.

Despite these hurdles, the focus must remain on alleviating clinicians of inefficiencies that are driving up waiting times and hindering the quality of care. It’s crucial the government is, therefore, smart about where it invests its money in healthcare and generates the best possible return on investment.

If AI is soon to be introduced in hospitals, healthcare professionals must be prepared to harness its benefits. However, this readiness is hindered when patient data is confined to physical storage libraries. The primary focus should be on prioritizing the digitization of patient medical records and effective data management, enabling seamless AI utilization by doctors and nurses.


The foundation of healthcare transformation

This is where EDMS emerges as a crucial enabler and where the government should concentrate its investment efforts in the first instance. EDMS serves as an intelligent content store for patient data, enabling clinicians to access information swiftly for informed decision-making. The benefits extend beyond efficiency – interconnected data nurtures innovation and advances in healthcare. By combining data with context, EDMS transforms information into actionable insights, empowering medical professionals with accurate diagnoses and tailored treatment plans.

A critical aspect of this transformation is user experience, particularly for clinicians. Technological progress should simplify, not complicate, their workflows. This emphasizes the importance of user-centric design in addressing practical challenges. By making patient records accessible and intuitive, clinicians can focus more on patient interaction and less on navigating digital systems.

Looking ahead, the NHS envisions federated access to patient data across multiple hospitals in a region through integrated care systems. The current cumbersome process of sharing information impedes collaboration. EDMS solutions offer a streamlined pathway for data exchange, benefiting both patients and medical practitioners by enabling efficient access to critical insights.


Take the first step

The digital journey is not without its complexities, but it is imperative to focus on the goal: delivering quality medical care. The challenges posed by funding constraints and technology integration should not deter progress. EDMS solutions act as a bridge between the era of paper records and a data-driven future. Embracing this transformation ensures the NHS remains a global model of healthcare excellence for generations.

Digital transformation of the healthcare industry is not an overnight revolution, but a strategic evolution. The first pivotal step is digitizing patient record systems, laying the foundation for AI-driven insights and streamlined data exchange.

As funding and support align with the healthcare sector’s ambitions, the prospect of a paperless NHS powered by smart solutions and data-driven decision-making comes into sharper focus. The clinician-patient experience will be revolutionized, with clinicians spending more time engaged with patients and less time grappling with administrative tasks. The journey toward a digital NHS is a challenging yet essential objective, one that promises to enhance healthcare outcomes and pave the way for a brighter future in patient care.