Earlier this year, information technology (IT) systems at one of the largest hospital trusts in the NHS stopped working for 10 days. This was the latest in a long history of NHS IT system failures across primary and secondary care.
As “paperless” is now the default operating mode for many healthcare systems globally, IT failures block access to records, prevent clinicians from ordering investigations, restrict service provision, and bring to a halt the everyday business of healthcare. Increasing digital transformation means such failures are no longer mere inconvenience but fundamentally affect our ability to deliver safe and effective care. They result in patient harm and increased costs.
There is a growing disconnect between government messaging promoting a digital future for healthcare (including artificial intelligence) and the lived experience of clinical staff coping daily with ongoing IT problems., writes Joe Zhang and Hutan Ashrafia in a BMJ Editorial.
Digital capabilities exist in a strict hierarchy, with IT infrastructure as the foundational layer. This digital future will not materialise without closer attention to crumbling IT infrastructure and poor user experiences.
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