The steady adoption of web and browser-based ways of interacting in healthcare is something we’ve welcomed. It’s good to see the approaches and technologies that have become so much a part of everyday life making their way into one of the most important parts of life: good health.
One area we’ve followed closely is the use of “online” or browser-based questionnaires to gather information from patients, their families and sometimes healthcare professionals. This is something to be welcomed: it delivers patient choice, can enhance privacy and gives NHS organisations greater freedom to innovate.
As the adoption of browser-based questionnaires continues, it’s important that the opportunity to improve is not missed.
At the most basic level, a browser simply delivers an existing process or form in a different way. That might be a very useful step, driving choice and flexibility and enhancing experiences overall. However, good vendors know that when a service is “digitised”, the opportunity to look again at the process and how it affects people is enormous.
Processes that worked well using paper may not apply to software. For example, so many security, audit, control and access considerations are taken care of by modern solutions. Searching for notes, applying labels and workflows; all of this is inherent in a good IT system. And that’s where the real opportunity to improve and innovate exists.
Work that has been done to develop, for example, Integrated Care Pathway documentation is unlikely to have been wasted. Colleagues will have considered the inputs, involvement and needs of a range of stakeholders; not least the patient. When the time comes to move to digital, that work can be revisited, but it’s a missed opportunity if it’s simply replicated.
Good software will allow the organisation to look at how information is routed, who sees it (and when), how information is shared and what systems feed into – and from – the new solution. Information can then be made available in ways that paper cannot begin to replicate – and neither can a simple questionnaire made available via a browser.
Advances in technology are happening rapidly and continually, and it’s a time of enormous opportunity for the NHS. The trick will be to properly understand the possibilities.