Paperless vs Paper Light

The discussion around paperless vis paper light seems to have gone away since the pandemic, however there are initiatives that will certainly prove to support this key aspect of the digital transformation journey.

The move to become paper light is pushing forward for many health organisations across the UK which is very encouraging seeing that there are issues with being a paper heavy organisation bringing its own risks and issues to any department within the healthcare sector.

Becoming paperless is another challenge which will, for most, not be possible in the short term. This said, there are initiatives taking place in digital documentation such as the national framework for nursing documentation which looks to create a core set of nursing documentation.

‘Our ambition places the patient at the centre of care. The key clinical objective is to enable the right information to be accessible to the right person at the right time, to make it easy for nurses and other healthcare professionals to make informed decisions and deliver timely and safe care.’ (Helen Balsdon Nov 2021)

Whenever an incident in relation to data management occurs within a Trust that requires intervention it seems that decisions are made to introduce yet another checklist. This becomes onerous on a senior sister/charge nurse to complete on a regular basis during a shift. This reactive process does not solve the issue in hand it just adds to the workload of a workforce who are already stretched.

Also, adding to the frustrations shared by those healthcare professionals trying to implement and deliver care pathways that have the patient at the centre.

The benefits of going paperless are easy to understand; digitised documents mean clinical data can be easily shared across the NHS, giving clinicians access to patient records and care plans wherever they are.
That generates efficiencies and cost savings, as well as enabling higher quality clinical care.

Substantial investment is planned (£8 billion over five years), but the NHS has been hamstrung by the wide range of different IT systems being used by different parts of the service.

Many of these can’t work together, making it difficult for hospitals to share scans with GPs, for example.
The blame for missing the target to create an integrated paperless system of digital patient records – a key principle of the NHS Long Term Plan –  has been blamed on poor planning, a lack of governance and a lack of sufficient investment.

To deliver a paper light system into a health organisation is no mean feat and needs support from the top down to encourage those on the shop floor and give them the confidence to be able to use whatever solution is at their fingertips to do an effective job. The solution needs to be easy to use, read, operate, and manage the information that is being input and output.

Not trying to teach people to suck eggs by saying this, but from experience it seems to be something that digital health suppliers get wrong time and time again!

This is a combination of both internal and external influences on digital health projects which makes it paramount that the right people are used to make the right decisions that ultimately effect a major workforce of clinicians, AHPs, Administrators amongst others.

Paper is not going to leave us any time soon and we need to ask the questions – What do we want to achieve? How do we want to achieve it? What are the benefits of achieving it?

Let’s not look at trying to introduce functionally rich applications that have minimal impact on patient care and its delivery. Let’s try to create a platform that drives patient care and patient safety assisting the clinician in their daily routine. If this is not achieved, then somebody somewhere will introduce more paper.

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