Emails. Invented in the US in the late 1960s and now sent over 300 billion times each day, these electronic messages have become a defining phenomenon of our age. They have accelerated the pace of information transfer like nothing before, and have largely replaced faxes, phone calls and letters as the predominant mode of intra-workforce communication.
However, despite email’s current ubiquity, newly-emergent and more sophisticated communication platforms are making significant inroads into the space. In doing so, they’re exposing and amplifying some of email’s flaws - the very same flaws which inhibit the effective flow of information between healthcare professionals in the NHS.
Why does this matter?
This matters because emails are used heavily to coordinate every aspect of NHS operations. From the practice nurses coordinating infant immunisations to mental health workers sharing patient case details, emails are the de facto tool. Clearly, if emails are no longer fit for purpose, any negative impact will be multiplied exponentially owing to the volume of their usage within the NHS.
Of course, emails have their place. For example, they are an efficient way for patients to be informed of test results or upcoming appointments. But when it comes to coordinating patient care or facilitating conversations between numerous stakeholders, emails fall very short. This boils down to the fact that emails are designed for linear conversations between two people. When additional parties are looped in, the thread of conversation becomes tangled and awkward.
This flaw makes email completely unsuitable for the sorts of conversations that healthcare professionals are having around the coordination of patient care in 2020. To make triaging and treatment planning productive and efficient, healthcare workers need a communication platform which enables multidirectional, continuous conversation. Importantly, any such platform must also be entirely secure and resilient to information breaches. In 2020 we’ve been reminded that emails are still vulnerable to phishing attacks, which can result in data breaches and patient confidentiality being compromised.
How is Cinapsis providing an alternative?
We designed Cinapsis SmartReferrals in collaboration with NHS staff, in order to speak directly to the email pain point. Our entire suite of services are built around an intuitive communication platform, fundamentally different from point-to-point email chains. Cinapsis SmartReferrals allows patients to send images directly from their smartphone or home computer securely into the platform. Patient consent is always documented and saved for each image and video and the information is automatically linked to the patient's NHS number.
Conversations which take place on the Cinapsis platform can be easily coded, recorded and automatically filed to corresponding patient records, as the tech is fully integrated with EMIS Web, SystmOne and NHS Spine. This means no manual data transfer, and no lost data points or breaks in record keeping.
Cinapsis is also fully compliant with NHS data security regulations and GDPR, ensuring good clinical governance and dramatically reducing the risk of confidentiality infringements when compared with typical email networks.
- Data is stored encrypted on the Health and Social Care Network (within the NHS) with end-to-end encryption in accordance with NHS guidelines.
- Only users named by the Trust or GP practice have control over who accesses each image and video.
- Only users named by the Trust or GP practice have the ability to integrate the information with the patient's medical record.
Doctors also save time when their communications are streamlined with Cinapsis, as they need to spend less time composing, replying to and monitoring emails. In the past, if a GP had a query about a patient’s condition, they might have written an email to a contact in Secondary Care, then received a reply in a few days or longer. Now, while the patient is in their consulting room, the GP can use Cinapsis to message an available hospital consultant for instant specialist advice and guidance. Images can be attached to the message, and the conversation can move to voice or video call if necessary. This means that patients are much less likely to be triaged inaccurately, and much more likely to receive the best care in the shortest possible time frame.
Future-proofing the NHS
At this current moment, the NHS is under incredible pressure. Not just to continue fighting the pandemic, but to roll out a country-wide vaccination campaign, to get on top of spiralling waiting lists and treatment backlogs and to find a way out of a chronic funding shortfall.
Now is not the time to tear existing systems apart in search of radical change, but rather to select best-in-class new technologies that blend organically with pre-existing pathways. The most user-friendly solutions will be those accessible via smartphones and via clinical systems like EMIS Web and SystmOne.
Of course, opening up channels of communication will not be a panacea, but the positive impact will touch every single stakeholder. By working closely with every new adoptee (as Cinapsis does), sophisticated new tech can be tailored to meet unique needs. This sorely-needed transition could be the first stepping stone towards a broader adoption of new technologies in the post-COVID healthcare system, and towards a stronger, fit-for-purpose NHS of the future.