NHS blazes global trail with new IT

And that transformation will be seen as surgeries test out the proposed new contract that the Department of Health (DH) has pledged to introduce.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed how he is looking to Silicon Valley to help him overhaul IT in the health service, after recent setbacks.

Speaking ahead of a speech to US technology companies, Mr Hunt said: ‘Over the next three years, Britain will become the most interesting country in the world when it comes to health technology.’

Now his officials have set out the planned upgrades in dentistry that will see:

• Increased use of IT in dental practices, to ‘safely store patient data and assist with treatment planning’

• New technology at NHS England, the commissioning body, to ‘ensure dentists are paid correctly and efficiently’ 

• New IT systems introduced as part of the move to a new dental contract, after the second wave of pilot schemes began in April.

• All those trials using new ‘chairside IT systems’, advanced software to support dentists as they enter clinical data directly on the practice system.

An official told Dentistry: ‘More than 90% of dental activity returns in the NHS are now transmitted electronically.

‘IT will become increasingly important as we move to a new dental contract based on capitation, registration and quality.

‘In the pilots, chair side IT systems use advanced software which, as well as allowing clinical data to be entered directly on the practice system, provides support to dentists.

 ‘Based on the information, the dentist enters the software prompts on the actions recommended, under the pathway, for a patient with that profile.’

A typical result would see a patient with a high risk of future dental decay asked to return more frequently for assessment than a patient with a low risk, the official said.

 In setting out his ambitions, Mr Hunt is attempting to banish memories of the disastrous £11.4 billion plan to create a central electronic record for every GP patient – abandoned after big cost overruns

As part of the IT drive, Britain will become the first country to allow online access to information about NHS doctors’ surgical survival rates across 10 specialities.

And, by 2015, every patient will have online access to medical records held by their GP. By 2018, digital records will cover both health and social care services.

By parliamentary correspondent Rob Merrick

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