Millions of hours and £1bn lost to ‘inadequate’ IT, BMA finds

A new British Medical Association (BMA) report has shone a light on the steep financial and clinical activity costs that stem from inadequate or malfunctioning IT systems and equipment.

The report found that over 13.5 million hours of doctors’ time is being lost every year in England due faulty or poor IT infrastructure – that is equivalent to nearly 8,000 full-time doctors and almost £1bn.

Responding to a BMA survey this year, 80% of doctors indicated that improving IT systems and digital technology would help the sector tackle the seven-million-patient-strong backlog that is affecting services up and down the country.

87% thought that remote monitoring and care will be a prominent feature of health services in the next 10 years, despite only 24% saying they had the requisite infrastructure at their hospital to implement it.

One of the main grievances reported was that simply logging into computers was taking up to half an hour; one doctor described this as a “ridiculous waste of time” that was putting “patient safety at risk.”

Only 11% of patients of doctors responding to the BMA survey said they had all the necessary hardware to perform their roles, with 4% reporting that the software available to them was also “completely inadequate.”

Health professionals also complained of delays when accessing patient data from secondary care to primary care, with 57% of doctors working in secondary care saying they experienced problems all the time or very often.

82% of respondents reported similar problems but the other way around – accessing secondary care data from primary care.

The report said: “This clearly shows that seamless sharing of information is far from being addressed and, while some of this may be caused by other reasons, such as a lack of digitisation or high clinician workload, the lack of interoperability has an important role to play.”

It ultimately recommended that “robust standards” for interoperability should be put in place, which are enforceable on providers.

The report also recommended that doctors with a vested interest or expertise in digital transformation should be consulted, as well as offering digital leadership roles.

It also calls for any updates in patient-centred initiatives to be safe, any health inequalities created through digital exclusion to be avoided, and transparency with patients with how data is collected.

It concluded by mentioning how funding for IT infrastructure is less than the recommended level and that “now is the time to invest.”

To read the full report, click here.

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