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Digital doldrums: NHS remains world’s largest purchaser of fax machines

The NHS is the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines and its use technology is seriously lagging behind, a report has revealed.

In the review commissioned by DeepMind Health (DMH) researchers also said that “the digital revolution has largely bypassed the NHS”.

Another striking finding in the report included that clinicians were now being forced to “manufacture their own technical fixes” including using camera apps like Snapchat to send sensitive patient scans to one another.

“The digital revolution has largely bypassed the NHS, which, in 2017, still retains the dubious title of being the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines,” the report chaired by former Liberal Democrat MP Dr Julian Huppert stated. “Many records are insecure paper-based systems which are unwieldy and difficult to use.

“Seeing the difference that technology makes in their own lives, clinicians are already manufacturing their own technical fixes,” the report continued. “They may use SnapChat to send scans from one clinician to another or camera apps to record particular details of patient information in a convenient format.

“It is difficult to criticise these individuals, given that this makes their job possible. However, this is clearly an insecure, risky, and non-auditable way of operating, and cannot continue.”

The researchers also went on to say progress had been slow as digital solutions had been laid on top of hundreds of ageing IT systems.

It was reported that on average, most NHS trusts had around 160 different computer systems in operation in their organisation.

Today’s news also comes after the ICO ruled that the Royal Free NHS FT’s transferral of patient data to Google DeepMind was unlawful. The data was being used to develop an alert, diagnosis and detection app for acute kidney failure.

NHE has contacted NHS Digital for comment.

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Ria Gray-Jones   08/09/2017 at 23:22

This doesn't surprise me in the least. A few years ago I had to see a consultant in London for a few appointments, at the time I was living in the West Midlands. The consultant sent copies of his reports to my GP by the following method: 1. Consultant dictates report verbally into a tape recorder. 2. Recording passed to typist, who types it (within a week or so). 3. Output from typist put into consultant's in-tray for checking and signature. 4. Consultant either signs report and puts it into admin office's in-tray or amends it and returns it to typist. Depending on option, this could take from 2 days to 2 weeks. 5. Letter eventually gets posted to GP surgery. 6. Letter received at GP's surgery and is scanned into local computer system by surgery office staff. 7. GP reads report on computer screen, probably a couple of months after it was dictated. Why couldn't the consultant (or at the very least his staff) email the thing..?? Ria

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