While electronic patient records (EPRs) have been in use for more than 20 years, there’s still a lot of paper around: at least 40 million paper records in Lloyd George wallets are estimated to be in circulation throughout the UK, while over 17 million can be found in a central NHS archive.

These paper records are of limited use, primarily serving an administrative function to ensure all EPRs are up to date, as opposed to being used for clinical purposes or at the point of patient care. In addition, storing, maintaining and administering such large quantities of paper is unsurprisingly costly in terms of labour and operating space.

And this stubborn persistence of paper isn’t going anywhere.

Although digitisation efforts are under way, the task is considerable and will take many years and significant cost to implement fully. As a result, even if you have already invested in digitising your patient’s paper medical records, you will still be receiving paper records for new patients – for a while yet.

So, how do we create better efficiencies around patient records, freeing up more time and enabling GPs and their staff to do more effective work to support patients?

Digital do’s and don’ts
  • While all GP practices should be moving away from paper to digital records, there are some practical considerations to keep in mind.
  • However, digitising is a time consuming and expensive process, especially if you don’t really need regular or instant access to them. Off-site storage is a great option and will free up vital space within the surgery.
  • Ultimately, digitising records is the most cost-effective solution over a long period of time. However, if you experience high patient churn, or do not need access to your records often, you won’t see the benefit. Consider instead the hybrid option of offsite storage with the ability to request digital access on demand, as it’s cheaper than a full scanning solution (£5 per box per year to store versus approximately £120 to scan a box) but still provides the benefits of digital access on demand.
Minimising the paper trail

If you need to free up administration time, space, or both, in your practice, it’s time to invest in a solution such as Capita’s PCSE paper medical record managed service.

To help reduce the administrative burden that the storage and handling of paper records places on GP practices, we provide both digitisation and storage solutions for your medical records. Depending on your unique requirements, records can be done on-demand as access is required, or in bulk, in accordance with strict compliance protocols. And because we’re on the PCSE delivery network, records are diverted directly to our warehouse which means you no longer have to handle any paper medical records should you choose.

Creating breathing space for GP practices

Removing paper medical records from GP practices has provided significant cost savings and operational improvements already. Here are just some examples of where and how we’re helping:

  • We provide a complete record management service to a large, central London practice. Their previous supplier couldn’t handle the volume of registrations and deductions, and with the records going through the central London site the GP practice was struggling too. We transferred all patient records from their previous offsite storage facility directly to our warehouse, where they’re now indexed and stored. Any new patient paper records are diverted directly to our warehouse, avoiding any handling by the practice. Patients leaving the practice are processed automatically and handed over to PCSE logistics for dispatch to the new GP practice – saving costs and freeing up resources.
  • Following Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB’s successful digitisation, we’re supporting GP practices in diverting and digitising new patient paper medical records. This means practices are able to avoid investing in equipment and people to digitise or store new records themselves, while ensuring all new records are digitised to the same standards as those in the main project. 
  • When our client planned their new practice, they assumed there would be no need for paper medical record storage – after all, the digitisation of primary care medical records had been in the works for so long. However, they quickly discovered that the reality was different, and paper they didn’t expect to have, was quickly piling up. Ahead of their move, we collected their records and are now providing a full record management service. As per their request, for new patient records we’re continuing to deliver these to the practice, with periodic collection for storage. As a result, the practice has avoided having to repurpose a room for storage or modify their building design – avoiding all the knock-on costs and operational impacts associated with this.

Find out how we’re helping to deliver practical and agile digital management solutions for GP practices:

Written by

Neil skellham

Neil skellham

Business Development Manager

Neil is a customer focussed Business Development Manager with a passion for delivering value to clients through automation and digitisation of inbound and outbound customer communications.

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