The Nursing Technology Fund opened recently, giving NHS Trusts access to £100 million that can be used to implement new technologies that allows nurses to dedicate more time to patient care.
The technology fund will allow nursing staff across hospitals to access modern technologies that will ease their daily workloads, as well as meet a series of NHS regulations including becoming fully digitised by 2018, which some say is an ambitious and lofty goal.
According to a survey from the Royal College of Nursing, nurses working in hospitals spend over 2.5 million hours per week on paperwork.
This is a fundamental challenge for many Trusts at the moment especially since NHS forecasts show that there will be a shortage of nurses by 2016. The result: fewer nurses available to carry an ever increasing workload.
When it comes to the technology fund itself, NHS Trusts can't simply apply for it and splash the cash willingly. There are stringent requirements in place, mandating that ROI is met within a stringent timeline and that any technology that is deployed, really assists nurses and is not implemented just for the sake of it.
One of the major concerns with introducing new technologies is the associated capital, training and operational costs, along with the resulting effectiveness and usability.
A study by industry analyst firm Quocirca suggests that technology can sometimes be thrown at problems in the healthcare sector without fully considering and understanding the underlying processes or the needs of the clinicians and caregivers.
Additionally, due to the time constraints faced by the healthcare industry, Trusts need to be careful not to disrupt existing workflow processes and ensure that the technology does not take too long to deploy, or require a long time to train staff on its use.
A technology worth considering for the Trusts' should be digital writing, which transforms handwritten patient notes into computer readable information, effectively eliminating lengthy administrative processes. It also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of paper in circulation within the Trusts.
Additionally, the pen will allow those healthcare workers in the community setting to better meet patients' requirements as travel time between the office and the patient is reduced since nurses are able to transmit written notes two ways: either immediately by Bluetooth or when nurses dock the pen at the end of the day.
In settings such as the NHS Western Isles, the pen technology has allowed the Trust to provide 5,000 additional patient visits throughout a calendar year.
When it comes to care, nurses should be able to focus more on patients' care requirements, instead of spending so much time on administrative deadlines and chores.
Digital writing technology can ensure that nurses spend more time treating instead of typing. It is important that NHS Trusts look at the technology fund and engage in implementations that do not disrupt the existing workflow, but still help nurses to meet government goals and reduce the amount of paperwork in their day-to-day lives.
- Richard Sargent is a project delivery director at Anoto ltd and an experienced healthcare technology professional. He has worked as a project manager for the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and delivered a number of keynote presentations at several key industry events for the public and commercial markets.