Many General Practice (GP) surgeries are embracing advanced communications technologies to deploy electronic patient record systems in a cost-effective manner. Here, Nick Lee of Paragon Customer Communications, writes for Digital Health Age about how the latest technology is being used to digitise incoming and outgoing mail and reduce inefficiency in the primary care sector as the NHS targets a ‘paperless’ future.
It has been widely accepted that taking paper patient records and correspondence out of circulation will have a significant impact on operational efficiency of many doctors’ surgeries and NHS departments. Deploying electronic systems widely in a cost-effective manner, however, has posed a challenge for a UK primary care sector that is increasingly financially strained.
And whilst the ‘paperless NHS’ may remain a long-term ambition, today’s GP surgeries and NHS departments still rely on a mix of both printed and digital communications to ensure patients receive the care they require. What this means is – whether it takes the form of a letter to the hospital to refer a patient or hospital discharge summaries – printed correspondence remains critical to inbound and outbound communications.
A digital solution
To keep pace with the drastic changes in healthcare delivery – particularly driven by ever-more-complex treatment pathways and the associated administration required – GP practices are turning to the latest digital technology to digitise incoming mail processing and the indexing of documents, in turn, improving efficiencies, eradicating gaps in document control and eliminating the loss of valuable mail.
One such innovation is the digitalisation of incoming and outgoing mail. Modern systems, which are up to date and compliant, can help GP surgeries to transform how they manage documents through an end-to-end solution that is tailored to their exact needs. Whether it is incoming digital or printed correspondence, documents are sorted, scanned, digitised and indexed automatically before being delivered to the recipient via post or digitally. Historic documents can also be securely archived, safeguarding potentially confidential patient information.
What this means is non-clinical staff are not tied up inputting data for forms, filing paper correspondence or distributing letters to the appropriate departments, healthcare professionals or patients, eliminating the labour-intensive and time-consuming sorting processes and freeing employees to focus on core business activities such as managing patients.
Agile and innovative technology is helping drive healthcare practices forward, enabling smarter working for central functions such as filing and retrieving patient records. What’s more, GPs with more than one practice can upgrade digital systems both in scale and capabilities to ensure they meet the ever-changing requirements of managing busy surgeries.
Easy to install and deploy across internal networks and IT assets, such systems free up employee time, enabling non-clinical staff to focus their efforts on more productive elements of the GP practice instead of printing documents, placing them in envelopes and posting them to patients themselves.
By ensuring a strong platform is in place for inbound and outbound mail the patient experience is enhanced, while GP surgeries can also take back control of their operating budgets and ensure compliance with legislation.
Adopting the latest technologies for mailing purposes can also allow GP surgeries to thrive in the medical sector by regaining control of print, mailroom and postage costs and increasing staff productivity levels when it comes to outbound communications. By using such systems across multiple surgeries and departments it is possible to deliver a truly multi-channel mailing strategy that combines a multitude of channels, including not just print but also emails and SMS. The secure platforms are ideal for processing and circulating highly confidential critical medical documents.
Simple, secure communications technologies are enabling GP surgeries to enhance the patient experience and build trust by engaging with patients at every stage of the treatment pathway – from initial contact to the consultation and post-appointment follow-up – through clear, timely and continuous communications. The aim is to deliver a seamless experience to individuals that demonstrates a good understanding of their patient register.
With the deadline for the NHS ‘paperless by 2020’ scheme fast approaching, there is a real opportunity to transform administrative procedures in primary care services. As a result, healthcare leaders are making dramatic changes to their organisations, prioritising developing the skills of their employees, and, perhaps more importantly, their use of technology to enable automation of day-to-day processes.
Partnering with an experienced customer communications expert can help GP surgeries to formulate the most effective end-to-end solution for handling their practices inbound mail.