The NHS needs to retain a 'low-tech, high touch' approach when co-ordinating healthcare for people living with complex, chronic illnesses, a study has concluded.
A two-year research project by the King's Fund 2013 has found that although face-to-face information sharing amongst health stakeholders is a challenge, it is also an asset to the NHS.
This news comes as the Department of Health is pushing to create a paperless NHS by 2018 in a bid to save the government £4.4 billion a year, where health organisations, including GPs, will be able to securely link electronic health and care records wherever they are held.
The report, which investigated five UK-based programmes of care co-ordination for people with complex needs, did find that a lack of access to shared electronic health records was a common issue, but it insisted that healthcare professionals don't want to lose human interaction when dealing with patients.
It states that a significant amount of time and effort is spent on interpersonal communication between GPs, the patient, and clinical nurse specialists. The report found that in all five case studies there was a regular 'multidisciplinary team meeting', which was the hub of communication and knowledge exchange.
Consequently, the Kings Fund report argued that although IT and e-records can improve communication, personal interactions remain essential.
"This low-tech, high-touch approach was viewed by professionals as both a challenge to be overcome but also as an asset to be retained," reads the report.
"All sites reported that the effectiveness of decision-making and communication could be significantly improved through access to shared care records and better technology. The process of checking records on separate health and social care systems, for example, was seen as onerous, and keeping all partners well informed of patient's situation was highly time-consuming."
It continued: "However, it was commonly reported that there was a great value to this level of face-to-face communication with colleagues as a way of building trust, fostering collaboration and having more meaningful conversations about the needs of patients with complex conditions."
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