Could bulk patient record digitisation kick-start better digital practices in healthcare?

Back in 2013, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt set the NHS the target of achieving a paperless operation by 2018. This was one of the many ambitious plans for improvement of the service within the Five Year Forward View. However, with only one year left to reach this target, ‘paperless’ is still not the standard procedure within the sector, making the realistic date of completion seem much further away. Amid reports of resistance for patient record scanning and other electronic processes, could bulk patient record digitisation kick-start better digital practices in healthcare?

A Care Quality Commission Report on a London-based hospital noted poor use of its electronic patient record system, resulting in missing and out-dated patient information. With this being just one of many examples of other hospitals and surgeries across the country that fail to embrace the move to paperless, a new approach is needed to stay on track for the 2018 target. Embarking on mass medical record scanning services could be the push the sector needs, acting as the first step towards implementing better practices in the future.

Naveed Ashraf, Managing Director at Pearl Scan agrees that this kind of action is needed. He revealed, “Switching over to any new way of working is never easy, especially in an organisation like the NHS which is so large and complex. In order to keep the entire company at the same level, they must give it the framework it needs to build upon itself, rather than watching different institutions progress at different rates – which is exactly what is happening.

“To start, investing in a large-scale, outsourced bulk medical record and document scanning service is essential to quickly and effectively digitise all existing patient records. Once the initial, laborious work has been done, it will be easy to follow on from that and maintain these digital practices.”

Once in place, a paperless NHS is thought to be able to save the healthcare organisation billions. While this initial statement was made four years ago, the need for such savings remains critical in order to sustain its services, making support of this digital drive imperative. 

Digitising patient records could help improve the NHS’ finances

The NHS has long been under the spotlight for its dire finances. However the Department of Health’s annual report has highlighted just how bad its financial situation is. The report confirmed it had diverted almost £1bn away from investment in order to balance its budget, and now comes complete with an amber-light warning from the spending watchdog.

The NHS spends over a £100bn every year, and that number is rising sharply every year. However according to Pearl Scan, one of the country’s premier providers of document scanning solutions, the NHS can save significant amounts of money by making a couple of simple changes.

According to the scanning experts, switching to digital means could help to save the NHS millions of pounds ever year, which could go a long way in helping it to ‘balance to books’. Noting the cost benefits of digital processes, Naveed Ashraf, Managing Director at Pearl Scan Group said, “The NHS is under incredible amounts of pressure to hit targets and reduce costs. Yet as more patients head through its doors every day, that is becoming increasingly more difficult. By switching to digital means, staff can save time looking for misplaced notes, files and paperwork, while cutting down on the costs associated with purchasing millions of sheets of paper every single day.”

Making the switch to digital has brought a plethora of benefits to businesses of all sizes. Helping to streamline services and improve productivity while improving staff morale and significantly cutting costs, digitalisation has revolutionised the way many do business.

And how digitalisation can help the NHS was highlighted earlier in the year when the government launched a drive to improve the use of technology in the NHS in England. Aimed at creating a paperless service by 2020, the move was powered by the desire to create a more convenient service for patients, while helping doctors to provide faster diagnoses. However just six months on, this is now looking like a long way off.

 

Naveed Ashraf, Managing Director at Pearl Scan Group added, “The NHS really needs backing in order to make the push towards a digital service. It is in serious need of a lift, and the government must help it out in order to secure its future.”

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The Need to Commit to Data Scanning

 The Need to Commit to Data Scanning

The Need to Commit to Data Scanning

In February 2016, the government set aside £4bn for the NHS. This was to be used to launch the drive towards a totally paperless NHS, removing out-dated technology and helping towards newly developed virtual document management systems.

Many trusts are making steps in order to help towards the target set of achieving a totally paperless NHS in 2018, however some trusts are facing difficulties and have halted plans to scan their library of paper documentation. The Heart of England NHS Trust foundation in Birmingham has stopped their digitisation processes and has reverted back to using paper notes, stating problems with the speed of accessing the digital version of patient records.

In the long run, the drive towards a paperless NHS is a move, which can ultimately save time and the lives of the British public. The lack of data sharing between NHS organisations has been a long-standing problem, which could get solved as we move closer the NHS envisioned for 2018. By scanning in patient records and creating a digitised database, a patient’s medical history could be accessed by any medical member of staff, whenever or wherever they need it. If an ambulance arrives on a scene to take a patient to hospital, being able to have immediate access to data gathered by a GP on a persons prescribed medication and healthcare history could help to inform future decision faster, saving time and lives. Photographs and X-rays can also be scanned, creating a full overview of a patient’s medical history to be used by Hospitals and GP surgeries alike.

Creating a paperless NHS would also look to benefit the public externally, with plans for patient records being available online for those who wish to see them too.

With such a large amount of physical documentation being gathered by the NHS, and more accumulating every day it comes as no surprise that, as is the case with the Heart of England Trust, issues with speeds of scanning and accessing the information prove to be a significant challenge to be faced. However, in light of this, other trusts finding it difficult to keep up with the targets set are urged to continue their efforts, in order to help towards the overall larger goal.

At Pearl Scan, we have been working closely with the medical sector for over 10 years, providing our range of document scanning and storage solutions to both NHS departments and private healthcare trusts. We can collect all folders to be scanned on the same or next day from any institution within mainland UK, and offer a speedy digitisation service. With our years on experience in this sector, we understand the importance of maintaining quality data protection and security policies. Get in touch with a member of team at Pearl Scan today, to see how they can help to implement the important move to a paperless NHS.