Is going paperless the key to reduced risk and better practice?

Sponsored Content: eFax ponders whether going paperless will improve practice within the NHS, and reduce risk. 

The current NHS target is to have most of the healthcare service paperless by 2020. Since this might be a challenge, other goals set for 2023 may appear to be a bit more realistic. Whatever the agreed date, one thing is for certain:

The healthcare industry is on the road to becoming paperless.

Widespread use of paper documentation within the sector has resulted in a number of problems. From risks to patient confidentiality to wasting valuable resources, physical files and records present many chances for nightmare scenarios to occur. It’s time for using and storing large quantities of paper to go.

But getting the green light to invest in creating a paperless environment can be difficult. Today, we share the benefits of a paperless workplace within the healthcare industry.

Remove Dangerous Security Threats

The physical fax machine is a potential threat to data security. Working within the healthcare sector, chances are you’re using one. The NHS operates over 9,000 of the units, and many other organisations and firms within the industry require documents to be transmitted by fax.

Furthermore, data security incidents or personal data breaches are a major concern and a key area requiring action.

Faxes received on physical fax machines are immediately printed, left sitting on the tray or stored in a queue waiting to be accessed. Either way, your documents can easily be viewed or removed by the wrong person, leaving opportunity for the documents to be potentially mislaid. Going paperless and removing the physical fax machine from your healthcare environment can help to reduce these issues occurring.

But how can you remove the physical fax machine when it’s so important for communicating within the sector? The answer is to upgrade to digital faxing. Online faxing provides higher security solutions compared to the physical fax machine — alleviating some of the security problems encountered using physical fax machines — while helping you become paper-free. It’s a win-win.

Reduce Human Error

When it comes to the security of patient data and patient confidentiality, leaks are, more often than not, created through human error. These incidences are not intentional, but it’s clearly an issue, with 4 out of the 5 top causes of data loss being theft or a result of human error.

The use of paper documentation puts your staff in the driver’s seat in terms of security and file control. It is up to them to manage files correctly and secure them appropriately, which invites disaster.

Instances of the above security threats are well documented.

One such incident occurred when a GP practice accidentally submitted paper documents using a physical fax machine to their patient’s employer, instead of their new healthcare consultants. By operating through paper and the physical fax machine, the GP practice accidentally exposed confidential patient data. If they had implemented digital processes, such as sending the fax via online faxing, the risk of incorrect submission could have been reduced due to the functionality built into the software which facilitates pre-approved contacts, rather than dialed fax machine numbers.

Boost Patient Confidence

Up to 80% of people are concerned their personal information is not being kept secure by healthcare providers. In the digital age, individuals are more aware of how their data is being used and stored, as well as their rights to confidentiality and security.  

Nearly 50% of people think that paper documents are unsecure. A paperless working environment for your healthcare practice or organisation reassures patients and clients you are serious about protecting their data. Being advocates of new technology and removing paper documents conveys a message of a modern system that boasts increased data security.

Consolidate Systems for Better Access

The use of paper documentation leaves a paper trail in multiple places — within the same building, spread out across an entire site or even in different locations around the country. Individual departments have different files and places for holding said files. Different practices — as part of the same trust or organisation — also have individually located facilities for storage.

This can make access to documentation a challenge.

Removal of paper documentation and the development of digital formats for file storage creates a single access point for all data — a one-stop database of records and crucial information that can be viewed and used from authorised devices and systems. The result is that records and documentation are always accessible, ready to use, and within reach.

This goes a long way to supporting targets outlined by the NHS’s brief into why the service is looking to achieve a paperless healthcare industry, one of which states an aim to “give care professionals and carers access to all the data, information and knowledge they need.”

Centralised data systems also make for simpler audits of information, especially when carried out by governing bodies like the QCC. You don’t have to dig out files and folders — it’s all readily available on your computer systems. 

Reduce Resource Wastage

Paper, and the use of paper, is a drain on your resources. Let’s start with the obvious:

  • You have to buy paper, which can be expensive in the quantities required for operation in the healthcare sector
  • You have to store it, which requires filing cabinets and other units. You may also need safes and vaults for critically important and sensitive information. All of these require not only space, but also purchasing and maintenance costs
  • You have to manage paper, file it correctly, and find it when you need it, which absorbs staff hours and takes resources away from more important tasks.

Another problem caused by paper that you might have considered is the sheer quantity of time it takes to share and transmit large quantities of documentation, such as reports or full patient records. In digital format, this simply happens with a click of a button. In paper form, it can mean hours of sifting through items and slowly feeding them into fax machines, scanners or envelopes.

Consider how much time is actually lost sending a paper fax over a digital one. You must first transmit the file. Studies suggest that it takes about 15 seconds to simply walk to the fax machine itself, which if done many times a day, can consume many minutes, turning into hours annually. You must then think about the time it takes to input the paper into the fax machine and how long it takes to transmit the document. One fax page can take up to a minute to send, which means a 30-page document is going to take half an hour to reach its recipient.

Overall, this is a slow process.

Compare this to digital, paperless processes like online faxing, where faxes can be sent from your computer without having to move, submitted without having to spend time carefully inputting each and every file, and transmitted almost instantaneously through digital file compression. The difference in time consumption is, quite frankly, staggering.

Altogether, these points highlight a waste of time, money and other resources associated with paper processes —  resources that your healthcare organisation may not have to spare. The introduction of a paperless workplace scheme using digital practices can drastically reduce wastage, improve workflow and document security.

Removal of paper documents  — and moving to digital practices like online faxing, means administrative work becomes more efficient as well as reducing the potential risks of human error. 


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