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Information technology presents one of the greatest opportunities to make services more efficient and help manage patient need in a sustainable and equitable way. This is an area in which NHS bodies and the Department of Health have shown leadership. The Five Year Forward View sets out plans to embrace technology and ‘exploit the information revolution’ and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, has called for a ‘Paperless NHS’ by 2020.

In 2012, The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) published ‘Smart New World’. This report highlighted the ways in which technology was being utilised to provide patients with a sense of involvement and control in their care, alongside the ways in which nurses could deploy information technology to complement their expertise. It was evident from this study that implementation of information technology is inconsistent. Six years later and amid a growing awareness of the role technology can play within the provision of healthcare, the QNI has set out to explore how information technology is currently being utilised in community nursing services. This new report presents the views of community healthcare professionals, explores how technology is currently used in a professional context and identifies the barriers to a full-scale adoption.

Overall, community nurses are willing to engage with information technology recognising that this is a new way of working will eventually enable better patient care and increase productivity. The survey, however, also identified barriers to IT being utilised in the most effective way.

Some key figures from the report include:

  • There are at least 67 differently named IT systems currently being used in community healthcare;
  • 74% of community nurses find IT systems a more reliable way of working, compared to paper;
  • 29% of community nurses are still working largely with paper based systems;
  • 41% of NHS trusts do not use telehealth systems;
  • 28% of services utilise a text messaging facility to remind patients of their appointments.

The report also makes a range of recommendations to provider organisations and to commissioners based on the information collated in the report.

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