Let’s talk about introducing…. pen and paper!

I’ve had a “eureka” moment (in 2016). I woke up one morning and thought, let’s start discussing introducing pen & paper. Why you may ask? Well, this week I had the pleasure of speaking at the e-health weeks’ nursing fringe in London. I was talking about Humanising Care with Technology. I was passionate about the transformation from paper that is needed in the 21st century as it we move to digital, and during it I felt I had to justify the transition, even with the known benefits.


Earlier that morning I had bumped into a former work colleague who is helping others do great stuff, and she said to me was “but all we want is them to do is embrace IT” and my response is why are we even having and allowing a discussion on introducing IT.

I wonder, did the Egyptians have a debate for 2 or more decades on whether the move from writing hieroglyphics on stone was better than on papyrus paper? I suppose we will never know, yet, as we have progressed over time, we seem to have to justify why a digital transformation is needed.

Health Information Technology (HIT) is wider than documentation, it’s about the need for the  right information at the right time in the right format for the clinical user to understand and make clinical decisions. Simply put, it embraces all the sources of health information through the medium of technologyIn my talk I used the ‘C’ word – computers – only once, and we should remember these are just one of the many tools enabling the collection, assimilation and presentation of information. While they are this years way we connect with technology in the health environment, the  content development means how and where the information comes from, including directly from patients will result in an information tsunami, with new intelligence and opportunities. It’s where the small data meets BIG data.

While the pen may have been mightier than they keyboard, it no longer is. ‘Paper’ had a place, and will be a part of our way of information, just like x-ray films and printed photos have been. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not paperphobic, I see myself as an informatics enabler using the digital media to be the catalyst for transformation.  I strive for using information for improvement rather than assurance, using information to tell the story with data as evidence.

My Florence Nightingale Scholarship visit to Seattle I heard from the transformation leaders that there should be no story without data and no data without a story. Clinical informatics have been core to their business, not just about assuring they are doing things well, but by taking that further and improving care by critiquing  and challenging the data to ensure it reflects reality. Those who have embraced the new digital world, don’t talk about the tools, but the information, they live in a world where information is driving practice and they do this by entering data once and utilising it in many ways.

So, let’s stop having the discussion of justifying the introduction, but rather frame it to, how can this new way of working enables better care, how can all this new information helps improve what we do and lets welcome the digital informatics age…..


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