[UK comment from Jim Beagle, CEO BridgeHead Software] 

In the headlines this week, it was reported that new research from Macmillan Cancer Support revealed that 18,000 cancer patients’ medical files had been lost during the duration of their hospital treatment, putting the health of patients at risk.

The loss of medical records to this scale is concerning. Not only does it have a direct impact on the treatment and outcome for patients, it also causes stress and anxiety for people already going through very difficult times.

I’m sure there are many factors that have contributed to this situation. But, it’s clear to me that part of the problem is that many hospitals are either struggling to implement effective data management and protection strategies or are still not placing enough emphasis on the strategic importance that these issues deserve. There is no doubt – these challenges are complex. That’s why I think it is important to applaud those Trusts across the UK that are taking a strategic view of their data and making significant progress in the management and protection of their patient records.

Technology is at the heart of Jeremy Hunt’s vision of a paperless NHS

As the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, re-iterated over the past weekend, one of his goals is to make the NHS paperless by 2018. In his vision, Mr Hunt aims to have all patients’ electronic records available to medical staff. Underpinning this vision is a technological infrastructure that will transform healthcare. Mr Hunt firmly believes that lives can be saved as a result, whilst keeping healthcare costs under control directly contributing to the long term sustainability of the NHS.

With the massive and continual growth of data now prevalent in healthcare, and the direct impact this explosion is having on hospitals in terms of their operations, efficiency, effectiveness and cost, it is vital that the appropriate care and consideration is given by the board, CIOs, CCIOs, EPR managers, imaging managers and the like, to the long-term strategic management of patient data.

Only when hospitals have a strategic approach to healthcare data management, where clinical and administrative information is properly stored and protected, will they really be in a position to avoid the circumstances outlined by MacMillan, but also facilitate a paperless NHS, as suggested by Jeremy Hunt, to ensure availability of that data to the right people, at the right time for the betterment of patient care.

In the News:

Cancer: 18,000 Patient Files Lost Each Year (Sky News)

The 18,000 cancer care records lost every year: One in nine patient files missing (Daily Mail)