The failure of the NHS IT programme to deliver on it’s promises originally set out in 2002 has been well publicised and I would not re-iterate them. Instead I want to share one of the many experiences that I have using NHS IT everyday as part of my work in an acute NHS hospital.
My hospital has electronic ordering system for scans. Below is a representative process of ordering a CT Head Scan.
- Find a free computer to log-on to.
- Find the application icon for ordering.
- Log-on again into that system.
- Put in the patient hospital number.
- Find the correct scan to pick.
- Specify the consultant.
- Specify my identity.
- Specify my contact number.
- Insert clinical reasoning behind the request for the scan.
- Specify the urgency of the scan.
- Find a printer and hope it works and has paper.
- Print the completed form generated by the computer.
- Walk out of the ward to find a radiology doctor to authorise the form.
- Line-up whilst the radiologist deals with other requests.
- Discuss the request with the radiologist who approves it by scribbling it on the printed form.
- Take this form to the CT Scanning room.
- Try to convince the staff in the CT Scanning room to prioritise scan.
- Staff in the CT scanning room has to re-enter data into the radiology system.
- Return to the patient on the ward to explain that we hope that the scan can be done urgently but we cannot say exactly when.
- Frequently check on the patient throughout the day to see if the scan has been done.
- Log-on frequently to check if report of the scan is ready.
- Let the patient know the scan results and decide on what to do next.
If you are a non-health professional, I hope that this real-life example shocks you.
If you are a doctor, I hope this shocks you but my concern is that this scenario is so common throughout the country that it no longer has that effect.
My personal opinions are that this system:-
- Takes away valuable time that I would like to spend with my patients to help them make sense of what is going on in an uncertain time of their lives.
- Increases the anxiety of patients by introducing uncertainly about when they scan is going to be done and how long they have to wait for the results.
- Exhausts unnecessary energy that could be better spent thinking about solving clinical problems and treating patients.
- Does not realise the potential power of an electronic system.
This is just not good enough; not good enough for the doctors, not good enough for the patients and not good enough for the general public.
Something has to be done.