The government will spend £4bn on technology over the next five years to move the NHS from paperless records to digital systems.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC that the investment will help rid the NHS of bureaucracy caused by managing paper records, and “ease pressure on the frontline and create stronger relationships between doctor and patient”.
"We know that proper investment in IT - it's not without its pitfalls - can save time for doctors and nurses and means they can spend more time with patients," he said.
The full details of the £4bn of investment have yet to be broken down, but it is expected to include £1.8bn to remove out-dated paper-based systems such as fax machines, £1bn to bolster cyber security and data access, £750m to improve out-of-hospital care with more digital systems, and around £400m to create a nhs.uk website, healthcare apps and free WiFi across the service.
A significant element of a paperless NHS will involve allowing patients to book services and order prescriptions online, as well as speak to their doctor online or through a video link.
The funding will also look to ensure that all NHS patients have access to their own electronic health records, as well as allowing that data to be shared between clinicians and other healthcare professionals to cut out the need to repeat information to different health services.
Creating a paperless NHS with interoperable digital health records is nothing new for the service, which is slated to achieve the goal in part 2018 and in full by 2020.
Furthermore, moving away from paper records and embracing more digital data has previously been championed as a way to help the NHS save money amid savage budgets cuts and efficiency measures.
However, the Care.data initiative, designed to provide a database of anonymous patient information, has already been delayed after it was relaunched following controversy over the use of big data in healthcare.
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