Auditors warn of ‘significant delays’ in digitising patient records in Wales
[Cardiff, Wales] NHS Wales has not ‘clearly prioritised’ resources to digitise patient records in Wales, a new report from the Wales Audit Office suggests.
Stretching back to 2003, plans for an Electronic Patient Record made of multiple systems that can talk to each other in Wales have been ‘significantly delayed’, findings indicate.
Acknowledging, however, that the system is ‘positively moving towards greater clarity’, the auditors found that the lack of independent scrutiny of the NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) or the publication of unbalanced reports on progress and performance were part of the ‘weaknesses’ delaying delivery of plans.
They estimate that the NHS spends less than 2% of funding on ICT. Stretched resources are a common trend in the digital health field across Europe as a HIMSS Analytics survey published towards the end of last year revealed most European health and IT professionals interviewed believe their IT budget for 2017/18 would not help them cope with increasing challenges in the delivery of services.
Huw Vaughan-Thomas, Auditor General, said:
“Putting the vision of an electronic patient record into practice means all parts of NHS Wales, including Welsh Government, need to take some tough decisions, particularly on funding, priorities and enabling clinicians to have the time and space to lead on this agenda.”
Vaughan-Thomas urged the NHS to address issues identified in the report to prevent ‘further frustration amongst frontline staff and ending up with systems that are already outdated by the time they are completed’.
The vision for an EPR was initially set out in the 2003 Informing Healthcare strategy, with a refreshed version published in 2015, entitled Informed Health and Care: A Digital Health and Social Care Strategy for Wales, restating the commitment.
The report urges NHS Wales to remain ‘open to updating the vision’ in the face of advancements in the healthcare informatics market, with a particular emphasis on open source technology.