NHSX is the largest digital transformation project in the world

digital transformation project

In his NHS Long-Term Plan Matt Hancock, UK Secretary of State has targeted a massive £700 million in back-office and administrative savings. To achieve this, the NHS needs to transform how it communicates with patients and how it stores, accesses and manages patient data. 

NHSX, the interdepartmental team charged with leading the change process, has a budget of £1 billion a year to spend at a national level and additional budget to spend locally. 

It’s an enormously ambitious project with ambitious goals. In fact, according to NHSX, it’s the largest transformation project in the world. Faced with such a herculean task, they’ve wisely split the project out into five key missions:

  • Reducing the burden on clinicians and staff, so they can focus on patients
  • Giving people the tools to access information and services directly
  • Ensuring clinical information can be safely accessed, wherever it is needed
  • Improving patient safety across the NHS
  • Improving NHS productivity with digital technology

We believe that in order to improve the patient experience and streamline administrative processes, the NHS needs to focus on the fundamentals first. In this piece, we’ll look at two technologies that will help the NHS transform its back-office processes and work towards its objectives.

Creating a digital front door

The mailroom is both the achilles heel and the engine of the NHS. It processes a huge amount of physical mail on a daily basis. From appointment notifications to patient information and subject access requests, the NHS spends vast amounts of time and money each day sending and processing hardcopy post. 

Every year, millions of letters are printed, scanned, copied, archived and posted by the NHS. And with the population increasing and our ageing population requiring more care, the mailroom is only going to consume more resources. 

Hardcopy processes are manual and labour-intensive. They divert staff and resources away from dealing with consultants and patients. They are also more prone to human error and less likely to be secure. 

More than 15 million GP appointments are missed each year, one of the key causes of which is issued with appointment letters. Outpatient letters can go missing in the post or arrive late. Patients who don’t receive their appointment letters might end up missing important appointments or not receiving updates on their treatment. 

Similarly, physical patient records are costly to store and take up valuable space. They are also time-consuming to retrieve and require staff to physically search for the necessary information. Sharing physical records across the NHS and different departments can be expensive and time-consuming, slowing down patient care. And compared with digital records, there’s little by way of an audit trail to tell you who has accessed patient data, when they did it and where they were.

The NHS’ digital transformation must begin at the foundations, by resolving the issues around how it communicates with patients and processes their information. Moving away from manual, hardcopy processes and becoming a paper-lite environment is an ideal starting point.

How digital mailrooms can help

Digital mailrooms combine two key technologies: hybrid mail and document scanning and archiving solutions.

Hybrid mail

Hybrid Mail allows patients to receive updates on upcoming appointments via SMS, email, post and other channels depending on their preferences. This creates a more convenient and patient-centric way of interacting with the NHS. It also reduces the reliance on manual processes and administration in the back office, while being more secure, reliable, auditable and traceable than physical mail.

Document scanning and archiving

Scanning patient documents and digitally archiving them is more cost-effective, more secure and more efficient than relying on physical records. Sharing digital documents is also simpler, faster and cheaper than relying on the physical post. And there’s an auditable trail of who has accessed patient records, where they were accessed and when. All of which improves patient care and reduces the time that patients have to wait to receive treatment.

Focus on the foundations

NHSX’s mission is wide-ranging and will cover countless different challenges and new technologies. But while it can be easy to focus on the ‘glitzy’ aspects of transformation, such as implementing new solutions like AI and machine learning, you can’t ignore the fundamentals. How can we improve how we communicate with patients and store their information? 

If you’re interested in learning more about how digital mailrooms can help the NHS achieve its ambitious back-office savings targets, download our new report. Inside you can find more information on how healthcare organisations can switch to digital mailrooms as well as detailed case studies and success stories from other NHS and healthcare organisations.

John Chambers

Director - IT, Communication & Business Process Services Ricoh UK

Read all articles by John Chambers