Paper records putting patient's lives at risk


A recent article published by The Times newspaper highlighted the costly effect of the NHS sending clinical correspondence about patients from one health provider to another by paper. The incident saw the costly result of important medical information failing to arrive at a GP Practice

No longer should organisations send paper to GPs. Here, Ric Thompson, the Managing Director of Docman tackles a real issue recently highlighted by The Times.

Cost of delivery

Ongoing reports in the news highlight a cash flow crisis in the NHS, yet provider organisations are still sending clinical correspondence through the costly method of paper through the post.

Many healthcare providers we engage with highlight to us the cost of them sending paper to GPs ranges from 50p per letter to £1. A large Acute Trust typically sends upwards of 900,000 documents to GPs each year, resulting in up to £900,000 costs before taking into account staff time. Many organisations in result have been using Docman for years to digitally transfer these documents in a secure and efficient way to GPs. They do so to reduce their costs significantly and to ensure information is delivered to GPs immediately.

Meeting targets

NHS Digital mandated from 1 October 2015 all discharge summaries needed to be delivered to a patient's GP within 24 hours, as reported by The Times, the NHS guidelines are not being followed.

More recently, the NHS Standard Contract dictates that discharge summaries must be sent electronically and now as a structured message. It was also mandated that clinic letters must be sent electronically rather than in paper form, again only by direct electronic transmission and not by email.

Real progress

Our recent developments to the Docman Hub solution adopts a plug and play approach, where organisations can connect into our cloud platform and exchange clinical correspondence securely and quickly, with a full audit trail to monitor exactly where a document is at every step of the handover process. There has been progress, many organisations are sending correspondence digitally and millions of documents are being transferred, but still there’s more to do. We’re working with lots of providers in the NHS; independent providers, care homes, mental health, acute trusts, ambulance, federations and community services, all to drive information arriving digitally at a GP practice into their workflow process.

A new approach to financing

However, too often is the case where there is no budget to adopt technology, yet the costs of making the decision to continue as normal and send paper letters is significantly greater, whilst also increasing clinical risk.

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