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Healthcare Technology: NHS Still Reliant on Fax Machines and Pagers

Healthcare Technology

Is the NHS Overly Reliant on Outdated Technology for Communications?


A recent study has shown that hospitals across the country continue to be reliant on outdated technology, with thousands of fax machines still in use.


Senior doctors described the continued use of these outdated technologies as “ludicrous” and said that more up-to-date forms of technology were urgently needed.


The poll, conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons, found that nearly 9,000 fax machines were still in use throughout the country. Three quarters of the trusts in England replied to the survey: 95 in total. Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Trust topped the list, relying on 603 machines. Barts Trust, England’s biggest trust, has 369 fax machines in regular use. 10 trusts did not have any fax machines in use, but 40% of trusts reported use of over 100.


This survey follows a report last year by artificial intelligence company DeepMind Health, naming the NHS as the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines.


Separate figures last year also showed that the NHS is heavily reliant on pagers. The report, by digital company CommonTime, revealed that around 130,000 pagers are in frequent use, at an annual cost of £6.6m. The report emphasised that, not online is the use of pagers in the NHS costly, but it is also incredibly limited, as it does not facilitate two-way communication.


Not only did DeepMind’s report discover that doctors were frustrated with the outdated technology still in use, but also that many had begun to take matters into their own hands, communicating patient information via unsanctioned applications, such as WhatsApp and Snapchat.


What is the Future of Communication Technology Within the NHS?


New Health Secretary Matt Hancock is known to be a huge advocate of digital technologies, and a dedicated NHS app is due to be released later in the year, allowing patients to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions from their phones.


Some trusts are already embracing the new technology. Oxford University Hospitals Trust turned off its fax machines trust-wide last year. According to Chief Information and Digital Officer Peter Knight, this made the trust one of the first in the country to turn off its fax machines and make the switch to the NHS’ internal email system, NHSmail.


Knight named the extra security precautions required for patient data as a key obstacle to the abandonment of these old-fashioned technologies.


NHS Communication Technology with 4C Strategies


4C Strategies has been assisting organisations in the healthcare sector for over 18 years. In that period, we’ve helped over 60 NHS Trusts in a number of technology areas. We can assist an NHS Trust in the move to a modern, functional communications system, ensuring the secure transfer and storage of sensitive data. Not only can a new unified communications strategy provide privacy and security, but it can improve day-to-day efficiencies and enhance overall patient experiences.


To book a free consultation, contact 4C Strategies today on 01858 438938.


You can read one of our NHS Trust case studies here.

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