Top 5 tips to going paperless
Healthcare facilities love paper. So is there a simple way to go digital?
The first indication that a paperless office might one day be a reality was the development of the electronic telegraph back in the 1800s.
And yet here we are, all this time later, with paper-strewn offices and paper-laden filing cabinets. This is particularly the case in the healthcare sector, where the paper trail seems impossible to avoid.
According to environmental group Clean Up Australia, we devour more than 4.2 million tonnes of paper annually in this country. Each office worker throws out an average of 50 kg of paper every 12 months.
And things aren’t expected to improve any time soon. The latest research by IndustryEdge reveals that Australia’s consumption of paper and paperboard will increase by a total of 4.9% over five years to 2020.
But imagine if the healthcare sector could lead the change? The benefits of going paperless include financial incentives, efficiency improvements, enhancing quality of care and security of patient information.
Here are five top tips on how to implement a move to paperless.
1. Start from the top
Leading by example is paramount. Start by assessing exactly how much paper you’re use in your office, and suddenly you’ll realise that small things add up. Request paperless statements from banks and service providers and implement systems to pay bill online. And for the inevitable paperwork that must be printed, using both sides can cut paper usage in half.
2. Know your usage
Track the number of pages printed per person, generate a monthly report and email it to everyone in your organisation. Make sure you also encourage staff to take personal responsibility for achieving paper use reductions by setting their own targets.
Also, look for ways to make it less convenient to print. Simply reducing the number of printers could mean staff are less likely to print frivolously, adding to cost-effectiveness.
3. Streamline the patient journey
Patients bemoan the need to tell their story every single time they visit each medical practitioner.
So make life easier for them and your own organisation by investigating some of the technology options that exist.
For example, digital health software provider Global Health has a product called Secure Message Exchange, which allows clinicians to securely exchange referrals, discharge summaries and other clinical documents. The company is also behind LifeCard, a personal health record for consumers to access their health information when needed.
4. Move to the cloud
Cloud computing covers everything from storing backups of your important data remotely to running all your office systems in the cloud.
Therefore, moving all functions of your healthcare business into the cloud will enable you to simplify and automate IT systems.
5. Embrace a hybrid approach
It can seem an impossible task to physically scan all patient medical records as you work towards a new paperless system. But perhaps instead you can just use the paperless system for new clients?
For example, maintain paper records for existing patients only. Over time, patients will not return and their records can be archived. After statutory retaining requirements have passed, records can be destroyed, reducing the need for physical storage space in the office. Then, create a new digital patient medical record for new patients only.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that different models of care have a place in how we manage patients.
From virtual hospitals to video calls with GPs, innovations in telehealth are transforming the...
UNSW Sydney medical scientist Associate Professor Darren Saunders explains how scientists cut...