Dentists missing out on IT

shutterstock_158080031Dentists have missed out on ambitious plans to make using the rest of the NHS as simple as online banking – despite long-standing protests about their poor IT.

NHS England has pledged that other patients will be able to check their health records online by 2018, setting out a blueprint to make the health service a ‘digital pioneer’.

It will allow doctors to prescribe free smartphone apps to patients, to help them to manage conditions such as diabetes and depression.

Every visit, every prescription, test results, adverse reactions and allergies to drugs will be available online, with patients also be able to record their preferences and comments.

And that digital access will extend beyond general practitioners (GPs) and hospitals to include social care and community and mental health services.

Dentistry misses out, despite the blueprint – called Personalised Health and Care 2020 – pointing out the sector has missed out on previous advances.

It reads: ‘Most individuals have numerous care records, for example with their dentist, hospital and GP, which are unconnected and inaccessible.

‘Designed primarily to support the service provider, often principally for administrative and billing purposes, these systems lack transactional functionality, which would support the user in taking control of or managing any part of their own care.’

NHS England said: ‘This is not a strategy nor a national plan, but a framework for action, which does include dentistry.

‘These proposals are not comprehensive but they represent the core and immediate priorities for the delivery of modern digital health and social care.

‘There are a number of implementation groups to drive the recommendations forward in detail and it is expected that dentistry will field representation.’

The omission comes after the British Dental Association (BDA) met health ministers to raise the alarm over the lack of investment in dentists’ IT systems.

Dr John Milne, the chairman of the BDA’s general practice committee, warned that patients’ health was at risk, while dentistry, plus pharmacy and optometry, were left in the IT slow lane.

And he said recently: ‘There’s been no progress with electronic record sharing.

‘We’ve heard a lot of talk from all the parties about a joined up approach to health and social care, but there’s not even the will to invest in decent IT for dentists, let alone an integrated system.

‘And, with tooth decay now the leading cause of hospital admissions among children, investing in effective record keeping is simple common sense.’

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