The NHS celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2018. It’s going to be a year of recognising the achievements of the organisation, which continues to offer healthcare for all provided free at the point of delivery. There will be a special focus on ‘health heroes’, the people who keep the NHS running in complicated circumstances, culminating in a 70th birthday party on 5 July 2018. To recognise this milestone, and to look to the future, we’re going to be running a series of blogs on document storage and data management in the UK’s healthcare sector. Our first blog focuses on an ambitious strategy: delivering a paperless NHS.
Paper is no longer enough for patient records
Just as healthcare has become more complex over seven decades, so has the task of keeping patient records. In 1948, people accessed healthcare almost exclusively through their GP or a local hospital. Yet in 2018, care is delivered in venues as diverse as a supermarket walk-in centre and a specialist primary care hospital. Longer lives and a greater range of conditions which can be treated also contribute to an increase in the average size of patient records. It’s no longer practical to rely entirely on paper documents to keep records of all consultations and interactions.
Interestingly, GP surgeries led the way with digitisation as early as the 1980s. By the mid-2000s, all GP surgeries had switched to IT systems to record patient interactions with doctors and other healthcare professionals. Many surgeries have also now shifted to making appointments electronically. But it’s estimated that at least 70% of communication between GP surgeries and hospitals still takes place through the post – and letters can get lost, or go missing when being shared by colleagues.
Paperless NHS: getting digitisation right
Much has been made in recent years about achieving a paperless NHS. There are clear advantages of a digitised system of patient records. It can enhance patient confidentiality, as data can be password-protected, with different access levels and the option to make certain documents read-only, while also meeting the need to share data between clinicians. It’s easy to see audit trails, as anything that happened to a document is recorded electronically, whenever the document is accessed, printed, edited or deleted. Digital files take up less space, reducing costs for storing, searching, retrieving, reproducing or distributing documents. And scanned documents are searchable, while being future-proofed for developments in software.
The current government had originally committed to delivering a paperless NHS by 2018, and allocated £4.2 billion to the task in 2015-16. But this task was pushed back following a report, Making IT Work, published in September 2016. The report, by Dr Robert Wachter, suggested a revised target for all NHS trusts to be ‘largely digitalised’ by 2023. More importantly, the report rightly focused the efforts of digitising the NHS on achieving the ‘Triple Aim’ of better health, better healthcare, and lower cost.
Paperless NHS: balancing digitised documents and paper
However, the NHS in common with many other organisations is finding that it simply might not be practical to eliminate paper entirely. Paper is easy to work with for individuals, much as it’s complicated for an organisation’s ability to manage information. Many staff still prefer to make initial consultation notes on paper, or to read, analyse and edit particular parts of patient records in hard copy. Rather than focusing on going paper-free, NHS trusts should aim to get the balance right between using digitised documents alongside paper to support the delivery of high-quality care.
This is where CAS can provide innovative solutions to the management of patient records and other medical documents. We are experts in storing complex archives of paper documents in our warehouses, and providing digital versions of these documents when they’re needed. Our live file storage service utilises RFID systems to give NHS agencies an efficient way of getting the files they need on a daily basis even when they store patient records offsite. And with scan-on-demand, documents can be shared digitally only when they need to be, eliminating the need to digitise all documents in one go. What’s more, CAS’s professional document handling teams give you the peace of mind that your organisation complies with the 2014 NHS England Confidentiality Policy.
CAS has an excellent track record of working with NHS agencies. Read our case study on how we relocated and digitised over 20,000 confidential client health care files for the Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust.
Look out for our next blog in this series, about how NHS agencies are working to prepare for the General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR) when it comes into effect in May 2018. But in the meantime, contact one of our team today to find out more about our range of document and facilities management services.
Contact one of the CAS team now to discuss how we can help you during, and after, the GDPR countdown.
About CAS GDPR compliant document storage and management
The GDPR countdown has begun, are you ready? CAS provides comprehensive and secure document storage and management, scan on demand, and facilities management services. For more than 20 years CAS have worked with NHS Trusts, Financial Services providers, and corporate and private clients. Our head office is just four miles from the City of London, supported by our advanced storage centres across the UK. CAS has an impressive array of International certifications (ISOs), which prove our compliance with the strictest national, European and international laws. They also demonstrate our commitment to provide innovative systems on security, confidentiality and quality control in keeping your files safe and well managed.