Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has set the challenge for the National Health Service (NHS) to “go ‘paperless’ by 2018, to save billions, improve services and help meet the challenges of an ageing population.” But while this is a laudable goal, the full benefits of eradicating paper based records will only be felt if organisations throughout the NHS rethink the way they store, manage, and process information. This is according to M-Files Corporation, a provider of solutions that dramatically improve how businesses manage documents and other information.
The NHS has just been granted an additional ?4.2 billion in technology funding over the course of this parliament, with ?1.8 billion promised for a ‘paperless NHS.’ While the Health Secretary is focusing on a paperless future, the NHS itself faces the prospect of digitising vast numbers of historical records, combined with the cost of implementation.
According to Julian Cook, Director of UK Business, M-Files “The call from the Health Secretary and the additional funding for a paperless NHS is a great step forward towards a more efficient, cost-effective public health service. Digitising paper-based documentation however, will only solve some of the issues currently seen within the NHS. An effective system for managing and processing these documents must be put in place, in order to maximise the full benefits of going paperless.”
“The scale of the proposed digitisation is not simply an IT issue. It will require a cultural and technological shift to engender the sharing of data throughout the entire NHS organisation. The lack of data sharing between NHS organisations has been a long standing issue, with GPs, ambulance services and hospitals often lacking sufficient historical data on a patient’s medication, conditions and visit history. There are many who believe that the departments within the health service that have already digitised have missed a huge opportunity by focusing solely on internal transactions as opposed to the entire ecosystem, and they have not eliminated manual and redundant processes. Instead the pervading culture has been to still employ manual and error-prone practices from a paper environment to a digital one,” continued Julian.
The move to a paperless service aims to drastically reduce the amount of time and confusion spent searching for patients’ documents, helping processes to run faster and smoother than currently being seen.
The transition from paper to electronic documents however, must be treated with caution, as this move alone will not guarantee a reduction in time unless an effective document management system is implemented.