In 1990s news, the NHS is still the world’s biggest buyer of fax machines
With all the marvels that modern medicine facilitates, you’d expect the NHS to be pretty clued up, technologically speaking. Alas, the opposite appears to be true, with the NHS firmly ensconced in its position as the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines. A curious, not to mention ill-advised, title to hold in the 21st century.
A review, commissioned by DeepMind Health (DMH), apprehended the pitiable state of inferior technology within the NHS, lamenting that “the digital revolution has largely bypassed” the health service. Coupled with this outdatedness is abundant disorganisation, with the news that on average, most NHS trusts have around 160 different computer systems in operation internally.
Moreover, when problems flared up, which they’re tend to do when using fax machines, clinicians were forced to “manufacture their own technical fixes”. If this sounds dubious, that’s because it is; reports have come in of professionals using smartphone apps such as Snapchat (of sexting/gimmicky filters fame) to send confidential patient scans to one another.
The report, chaired by former Liberal Democrat MP Dr Julian Huppert, was stern in its advisory tone: “It is difficult to criticise these individuals”, he began, “given that this makes their job possible. However, this is clearly an insecure, risky, and non-auditable way of operating, and cannot continue.”
However, the recent news is symptomatic of a broader professional backwardness with regard to technology.
In May 2016, it emerged that 30% of UK workers believed the humble fax machine to be “essential” in the workplace. Prone to breakdowns and, well, generally being left behind by the onwards-hurtling onslaught of technology, these machines are at risk of being not just archaic but anarchic. Let’s leave them where they belong. In 1978.