In a recent speech by the Health Secretary of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, the United Kingdom government announced that paperlessness in their healthcare system was a viable possibility by 2018. Jeremy Hunt, the current Health Secretary, expressed in this speech that the healthcare system needs to use strategies like document management and better methods of paperless medical records management in order to not only stay abreast of the times, but also to move the United Kingdom’s healthcare industry in a more environment-friendly and cost effective direction. “The NHS cannot be the last man standing, as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution,” he said in his speech in order to drive home this point.

The goal of a paperless healthcare system by 2018 isn’t just a lone benchmark a few years from now, however. There are a number of milestones along the way that Jeremy Hunt highlighted in his speech as important parts of the process. By March 2015, he wants everyone who wishes it to be able to have online access to their health records held by a general practitioner. He also wants a system of paperless referrals to be put in place so that hospitals can receive referral requests much faster by email, rather than with a letter that takes a while and might get lost.

He also calls for clear plans for the linkage of care records across the board, meaning that someone who has seen several doctors, will have a file with all of their combined reports. This means that new treatment can commence much quicker because doctors have access to a full medical history. Hunt also asked for clear plans to be put in place to let those same health records (with the consent of individuals) follow them throughout other parts of the National Healthcare System, or other facets of the United Kingdom’s social care system.

Finally, by April of 2018, he would like to see digital information available widely across the board, from the National Healthcare System, to other parts of the government, to particular social services. These goals might seem lofty or unattainable, but with the application of document management systems such as eFileCabinet, they are more than possible. As Jeremy Hunt said later, “Only with world-class information systems will the NHS deliver world class healthcare.” This is not to say that there are not challenges in the way of a completely paperless healthcare system in the United Kingdom, but it is more than possible, and at this point, a very good idea in terms of environmental-friendliness and conserving money by cutting down on paper costs.

This is to say nothing of the improvement in healthcare that will result from centralized records and consistent patient history that travels with the patient, rather than being reestablished with every new doctor, clinic, or even treatment plan. Let’s look at some of the challenges involved with establishing an entirely paperless healthcare system in the United Kingdom, as well as about how document management systems like eFileCabinet can specifically address some of those issues.


NHS Challenges to Going Paperless

Jeremy Hunt’s current paperless initiative is not the first one that has been attempted in the United Kingdom. In fact, in his speech, Hunt talks about the challenges associated with the way that they tried to organize a paperless initiative previously: “Previous attempts to crack this became a top down project akin to building an aircraft carrier. We need to learn those lessons – and in particular avoid the pitfalls of a hugely complex, centrally specified approach.” This is really important because we have been talking about a centralized system that tracks individual patient records. However, the difference in this case is that it’s focused on the patient, rather than the system around them. In Jeremy Hunt’s new proposed system, the structure is secondary to the patient, meaning that a huge, arcane system that patients will get lost in is just as bad as a paper-based system that doesn’t even transmit record from one doctor to another. There are also concerns about paperless systems including security, access, indexing, filing, and several others.


DMS Solutions to Overcome Challenges

eFileCabinet is possibly the best resource for healthcare document management. A system like this is absolutely critical for an initiative like the one Jeremy Hunt has proposed. Concerns over centralization are addressed in the fact that eFileCabinet is a very flexible system that can be configured in a variety of ways. It also has powerful proprietary software for security and communication, including a system called SecureDrawer, which is a communications portal intended for sending sensitive information – such as medical records, for example. The flexibility, power, and security of eFileCabinet makes it an ideal candidate for a system like the one that Jeremy Hunt has proposed.