In British healthcare institutions, standardised, detailed and accurate patient records are vital for the provision of high quality care and the prescription of appropriate courses of treatment. A patient’s medical history can contain vital information pertaining to your future course of action: they may have had an adverse reaction to certain drugs before, for example, or have struggled with a related medical condition sometime in the past. Despite this immutable truth of the healthcare profession, many institutions here in the UK, including the NHS, have dated attitudes and approaches when it comes to their handling of patient records. We’ve taken a look at just a three issues concerning patient records in the UK today – can we work to improve healthcare data practices and improve the quality of UK care as a result?
A bewildering backlog
It’s not unusual for patients to remain with the same practice for many decades, accruing healthcare data covering an entire lifetime. Patients will often encounter more frequent health complaints as they age, and for your older patients, an accurate, detailed patient record could be the key to providing them with appropriate care today. With older patients, records may date back decades – some information will be newer and may be digitised, while the older data could even be handwritten or typed and kept in physical paper files. It’s easy to lose the thread when patient records are kept in such a disorganised way, and yet not enough work is being done to keep patient records up-to-date and fully digitised.
A lack of consistency
This level of inconsistency doesn’t just affect older patients with extensive healthcare records, however. A large number of your patients will have moved from place to place and have registered with several surgeries and practices over time. As they move from place-to-place their patient records should travel with them, but we all know just how frequently wires are crossed, files get misplaced and mistakes are made under the existing data system. With fully digitised, standardised healthcare data systems across the NHS and beyond, transferring patient records between practices would be the work of an instant, allowing patients to receive the levels of care they deserve. Frequently, one of the many difficulties faced in moving patient records is the number of different systems used by different surgeries and hospitals. Until one unified system is in place, delays to transfer of patient records are likely, and the margin for error each time these records are moved from one system to another will increase.
A slow uptake
The healthcare sector has recognised the need to digitise data and to standardise patient records and is making progress towards achieving these goals, although current levels of uptake are slow indeed. Some records are being digitised while others remain recorded in traditional paper files, upping the workloads of healthcare professionals and increasing the chances of miscommunication, and ultimately, of mistakes. It seems clear that digitising patient records should be a high priority for all healthcare institutions, so rather than gradually making the switch to digital data storage and capture processes we need to speed up the changeover dramatically.
It may seem like a labour-intensive process, but once we’ve made the switch to digital healthcare data, issues like miscommunication, data breaches and diagnostic errors will become far less common whilst levels of care will simultaneously improve. If you want to get ahead of the curve and start digitising your patient records today, take a look at the reliable, accurate range of healthcare data capture services available on our website.