Jonathan Elliott, Director and General Manager, Public Sector at Xerox comments on how the NHS is moving towards a digital future and eliminating paper
For the majority of people living in the United Kingdom, technology has become such an integral part of our day-to-day routine that we increasingly expect all services to be available at the touch of a button. Whether we’re ordering food or booking transport, technology has made our lives easier and more efficient in lots of exciting ways. As a result, other industries are working hard to catch up – and none more so than the public healthcare sector.
Back in 2015, the NHS set out a very public ambition for Paperless 2020, which aims to eventually eliminate paper at the point of care and support the overall digital evolution of the entire organisation. And whilst this 2020 target has since been extended, the NHS has not lost sight of its paperless vision.
Whatever the deadline, the benefits of driving systemic transformation across public health services remain the same. Medical staff will have access to clinical information at the point of care and patients will have greater control over managing their health with the introduction of secure digital tools. Combined, it should drive billions in cost savings and transform health services as we know them today.
The NHS has made significant progress and the patient experience is evolving rapidly as a result. It’s now much more common to be able to schedule a GP appointment via an app and receive appointment reminders via text. Behind the scenes, there is important work underway in order to overhaul many legacies IT systems and streamline other paper processes, which is key to driving the NHS’ complete digital transformation.
So with a digital-first NHS in sight, what steps are many health service organisations taking as part of their paper to digital journey?
- Implementing managed print services. NHS organisations are evaluating the paper processes and manual workflows that are currently draining resources internally. This is the first step to understanding how such processes can be better managed. From there, many key functions and processes can be streamlined which can cut printing costs by as much as 30%, as well as increasing efficiency, environmental sustainability and document security.
- Prioritising the patient experience. Many healthcare providers are branching out into new digital platforms – whether it’s a bespoke app or a social media page – to secure the sustained engagement of patients and create a digital journey which is safe, secure, high quality, and reflects patient and clinician needs. As part of this, healthcare providers must assess their digital ecosystem as a whole – specifically the ways in which data, technology and communication models are connected and applied – to provide a consistent patient experience across channels.
- Embracing the automation of paper processes. Moving from paper to digital records is critical for the NHS’ digital transformation. Digital records will ensure medical information is directly accessible at the point of care, enabling clinicians to assess and treat patients more quickly and effectively. Managing and storing these records online via cloud-based systems is also providing better visibility into patient care history and improving patient safety, as well as freeing up valuable storage space that can instead be used for patient care.
- Introducing hybrid mail services. Hybrid mail services give patients the option to receive their appointment notifications via email rather than a traditional post. This improves the communication between care provider and patient and cuts postage costs by an expected £1 million over four years – money that can be redirected to patient care. This technology can also be leveraged to track if a reminder message has been received and read, and send further reminders – a move which reduces the administrative burden for care professionals frees up staff and saves the service £160 per appointment that would have been forgotten and missed. For patients who still want to receive appointment letters by post, automated address checks can ensure postal details are accurate and that first class post is prioritised for short notice appointments. This helps ensure appointment letters are delivered to the right place, at the right time – improving outpatient communication channels.
As all industries continue to evolve to meet the needs and expectations of the twenty-first century, the NHS is on its own journey to maximise technology, empowering patients to manage their healthcare at the touch of their fingertips. Moving from paper to digital will open doors for service providers and patients to benefit from a truly integrated service, offering a more personalised patient experience and allowing all of us to be more accountable for how we manage our health.