Gerry Kelliher, EMEAR Sales Director, Kodak Alaris outlines how digitisation is transforming the public sector and lifting the paper weight it’s been carrying…
The public sector is inherently weighed down by paper. From internal government processes to medical records (which costs the UK government millions annually) and benefit management, paperwork is an intrinsic part of public sector services. However, as the world moves in a digital direction, paper is becoming a less practical and more costly medium for government. The need to store an ever-growing amount of data, provide information quickly and efficiently, while on a budget, is resulting in an increasing need to go paper-free.
The sector is well aware of the need to revolutionise. To start, the public sector has been focusing on redesigning its services using digital advancements to transform the delivery of vital services as part of a government-led digital transformation initiative.
This digitisation has created a public that expects all of these services to move seamlessly – in real-time. They want convenience, flexibility, manageability and customised experiences. To deal with this, many public sector organisations are looking to move to ‘digital by default’. For example, the NHS is working towards a deadline to be paper-free by 2018, in order to make savings of £44bn.
The whole sector, not just healthcare, is looking to enhance citizen experiences – all the while improving staff productivity and reducing operating costs. These are just some of the many motivators for public sector organisations to make the move to digital documentation by using computerised forms and tablets instead of physical paper.
Pesky paper weights
Although the public sector is embracing the benefits going digital will bring, it still faces many challenges in removing these pesky paper weights from their vital services:
The structure of existing processes within the public sector is itself a challenge to overcome. Organisations and services need to truly understand how these pre-existing arrangements actually operate, in order to take steps to fix them. In the UK, many were quick to criticise the government’s ‘Connecting for Health’ initiative for neglecting to understand current systems ahead of creating new ones.
Spending within the public sector does not come without scrutiny. By May 2016, the current public sector deficit, excluding public sector banks, was £7.84m1 – the pressure is on for these agencies to cost-effectively drive change, while also facing future budget cuts. This impacts all aspects of the digitisation process and can be a challenge in implementing new, costly technology.
With security breaches becoming increasingly common, it is important now more than ever to ensure data is as secure as it can be. In 2015, an East Sussex woman2 found the details of Conquest Hospital patients on a USB behind the hospital. Thinking it was someone’s precious holiday photos or important information, she was shocked to discover this was patients’ private data records. Once this data is digitalised, keeping it as secure as possible is a top priority through methods such as passwords, digital signatures and encryption. Although these may seem like huge hurdles, they are certainly not insurmountable. For much of the public sector, the solution lies in applying suitable document management. Traditionally speaking, document management services are about reforming processes, removing paperwork and improving communication and data flow. There are many other additional benefits in terms of digitisation and budget.
Time to lift those weights
For the public sector, the document management solution implemented must be able to capture, organise, share and store billions of pieces of paperwork that already exist. Breaking this daunting process down to 2 simple steps can make this a more manageable weight to lift:
Digitising paper documents as easily and speedy as possible is the top goal for digital document entry. Manual data entry is inclined to error as people are likely to make mistakes along the way, resulting in poor data quality. It is key for the public sector to automate where possible and ensure that its trusts and agencies are utilising the proper solutions by either centralising or distributing scanning solutions.
To accompany the digitisation process, it is important to have a solid software solution to support the backend. With smart solutions that can intelligently sort and direct information correctly, the public sector can capitalise on this, both in terms of time and money.
Digitisation brings huge benefits to the public sector beyond increased efficiency and cost savings estimated to be over $1 trillion3. These vast amounts of data can, such as for the NHS, shed light on problems before they occur and ensure both educational and medicinal remedies are prepared in a timely manner.
The greatest challenge the public sector will face is avoiding becoming lost in the mountains of data as a result of going paper-free, and utilising this to the public’s advantage. With document management solutions available that allow for quick, efficient and on-budget productivity, the public sector can take another step in the right digital direction.
EMEAR Sales Director