The Complete Guide to Going Paperless
- Paddy Gardner
- August 15, 2022
Why is Going Paperless a Good Idea?
Following a record-breaking mini-heatwave in the UK and a likelihood of more on the way, global warming and our impact on the environment has been on many minds. Individuals find ways to limit their fuel and energy bills, finding more eco-friendly ways to travel, work and unwind in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Similarly, businesses around the world have the responsibility and opportunity to assess their own environmental impact and evaluate where they might be able to become more economically and environmentally efficient.
One ‘quick win’ many businesses have explored when seeking to quickly reduce their carbon footprint is moving on from manual, paper-based practices such as using folders, forms, reports, note-pads, photocopies and sending physical letters to a digital-only environment. For instance, in recent years, banks have provided the option for their customers to go electronic with their monthly statements. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 56% of cardholders were receiving exclusively e-statements in 2020, up from just 25% in 2014. In fact, banks have now begun to encourage customers to go paperless, promoting it as low-hassle, more secure and private as well as, of course, it being the environmentally friendly option and lowest cost option for themselves!
Health and care organisations are no different. The NHS has had a priority becoming paperless for some time. In line with their Five Year Forward Plan, the NHS announced ‘Paperless 2020’, an initiative many hoped to be a ‘real opportunity to transform health and social care.’ However, Paperless 2020 in fact started as Paperless 2018, but with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign was pushed back. Since coming out of the pandemic, the NHS has delayed their mission once again, now aiming for a Paperless 2023.
Why is going Paperless so difficult?
Organisations struggle to transition to paperless systems for an array of reasons, the task of untangling existing systems combined with finding the right new tools, making sure they are affordable and finally training people to be able to use the new solutions. Working in healthcare makes everything a touch more complex.
As Shamir Patel, a consultant pharmacist summarises: “This [wide-scale NHS digitisation] requires lots of funding, time and investment in training all NHS staff on how to use the technology, plus 24/7 IT support in case technology fails which could seriously disrupt patient care."
Ironically, while Paperless 2020 itself was postponed due to the pandemic, it was COVID-19 that also catalysed a move towards digital solutions out of necessity, such as GPs adopting remote consultations in order to still be able to see vulnerable patients and the onset of virtual wards, now another NHS priority. As it stands, the NHS is on course to invest around £8 billion over a period of 5 years as part of its ambition to go paperless, with the new target set for 2023.
Going Paperless & the Benefits of a Digital Office in Healthcare
Despite the delays and difficulties surrounding Paperless 2020, there is no denying the benefits of a paperless and increasingly digitised health and social care system. Paperless 2020 aimed to:
- Give patients more control over their health and well-being by ensuring patients are up to date with their own healthcare and informed on their services and options
- Reduce the administrative burden for health and care professionals, with easier-to-use, more intuitive digital systems
- Provide easier access to healthcare services, that, with integrated systems and data sharing can provide a better, more continuous care
Moreover, outside of healthcare-specific benefits, many core business functions are made easier and more resource efficient when transitioning to a paperless office.
Fundamentally, paper is a resource-intensive material, from the beginning until the end. Given significant mass-production, paper has a negative impact on the environment, as it requires large amounts of energy to produce and transport. When it arrives at a workplace, it must be moved, managed and stored accordingly and that’s all before it’s first used! Using paper systems may feel easier as we’re familiar with it, but it also presents issues around legibility, from handwriting as well as the potential of damaging or losing important documents.
Alternatively, paperless offices are more eco-friendly and mean no physical space or effort is needed to store documents, which can be easily sorted and searched through in just seconds. One of the real benefits many organisations are now experiencing is the freedom that paperless offices provide, in the ability to access resources remotely, being able to comment and collaborate on documents, all of which is of course more environmentally and resource-friendly, than posting or delivering official documents, such as when collecting signatures.
A quick-fire summary of reasons businesses should go paperless:
- It saves resources by reducing the amount of paper you buy, transport and store
- It helps you save space for storage and reduces the risk of hazards such as fire
- It can significantly reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint
- Paperless documents can be shared with anyone, which means you can collaborate more easily with people from other countries or even other cities
- More accessible documents. Digital systems give you the ability to search, filter
- More auditable records, time-stamped, uneditable records, meaning records are indelible
- Ensure compliance with controlled fields, which can ensure things are completed to the correct standard
The Benefits of Going Paperless in Social Care
Social care benefits from all of the above when it comes to going paperless, but there are also many benefits of digitisation that are unique to social care professional teams and the ones they support. As Martin Green, CEO of Care England says “Technology offers the opportunity for the care sector to move into the 21st century and deliver better outcomes for the people that we support, as well as reducing the burden on staff and improving efficiency.”
The Care Home of the Future Campaign, a collaborative initiative of Ascom, Person Centred Software, ATLAS eMAR and PainChek, provides interesting insight into potential opportunities that come with the use of technology within care and showcases best practice of when it can be deployed to be truly person-centred. According to the campaign, to become a Care Home of the Future, a provider must complete three stages:
- To implement a digital system
- To integrate primary, secondary and residential care
- To provide data and analysis for predictive and preventative care
Many social care providers have taken their first step, adopting digital systems such as Electronic Care Management and Electronic Medication Administration Records (e-MAR) solutions. These digital systems have emerged as strong alternatives to charts, reports, notes and timesheets in supporting care planning, administration as well as more specific tasks such as health and safety, risk and medication management. Not only can these tools reduce the amount of paper bought, used and thrown away within your organisation, but they can better join the dots that exist in care.
How can digital care systems connect the dots between health and social care?
That’s where points 2 and 3 become very relevant and interesting. As many social care providers and social care professionals will attest to, those who are experienced in the field of caring are able to spot developments in an individual's healthcare, be they positive or declining. With digital systems, spotting and tracking these signs no longer rely on human intuition and individual expertise. Instead, electronic systems can help record baseline readings (an individual's typical wellbeing or routine) and highlight deviations from the norm. This can be utilised in a range of ways:
- Checking whether a care plan and its relevant care tasks have been followed
- Understanding whether an individual has eaten, hydrated or taken their medication
- Tracking what times various events occurred
With digital systems that ideally speak to each other through integration, individuals can benefit from continuous, person-centred care. With an integrated healthcare record, consisting of inputs from both health and social care, organisations caring for individuals can ensure unprecedented continuity of care, allowing for all resources to be optimised by guaranteeing every contact with an individual counts.
Social Care is a sector with scarce resources, the most valuable resource of all are the dedicated staff that support the industry and care for those within it. Moving towards a paperless office is not limited to the quick wins of reducing costs, becoming more eco-friendly, and saving time spent on lengthy paperwork and storage space for folders. Transitioning to digital systems is also about the improvements and opportunities, such as creating a more compliant, accessible, and scrutinizable record.
In fact, these opportunities and improvements are numerous. Going digital means optimised service delivery with better outcomes for individuals receiving care, social care professionals and management teams. With a more efficient service, your business can assess the potential to grow and scale with resources saved.
The delivery of person-centred care is a cornerstone of high-quality care delivery, however, it is also something that takes time, effort and understanding. Person-centred care in its definition can’t be ‘cookie-cutter’, it must be crafted with an individual and their context in mind. With paperless records, social care professionals can quickly recall interactions with individuals by both themselves and their colleagues. When considering practices such as handovers, digital systems can enable a smooth transition, with information made readily accessible, even remotely.
Our partner, Person Centred Software, has written extensively on the benefits of transitioning to digital systems to replace traditional, paper-based care planning. In fact, to hear about some more benefits of moving towards a paperless office in social care, check out their top 10 Reasons to go Paperless and Move to a Digital Care Planning System here.
How Automated Care Messaging Can Help You Go Paperless
Integration between digital systems is not just the future, it is an expectation that social care providers should now have. We are so strong in this belief, that we put it into practice, integrating our solution Automated Care Messaging (ACM) with Person Centred Software, and are always on the lookout for more integration partners.
Haelu and Cliniconex’s ACM solution integrates with Person Centred Software’s Mobile Care Monitoring to create a comprehensive omnichannel suite for all a care provider’s communication needs. ACM improves communication through a secure, simple, and reliable system. This flexible tool was designed by care providers, for care providers, to better engage with their care community.
ACM allows for care professionals to automate the repetitive and time-consuming elements of outreach, from delivery to documentation and allows staff time to focus on person-centred care. With ACM, you can take control of communication, capturing all the relevant data, such as responses from families and staff, but most importantly keeping families and staff informed with push notifications (voice, text or email) to their preferred devices.
Globally, ACM is trusted by more than 3000 social care providers to keep families up to date and engaged with their loved ones' home. To date, ACM’s workflow automation has returned over 1,000,000 hours to front-line care by eliminating the need for lengthy, paper-based outreach and administration.
How Automated Care Messaging Can Help You Go Paperless
- Send urgent announcements
- Updates and reassurance
- Filling an open shift quickly by reaching staff on their preferred devices
- Crisis management and emergency preparedness
- Quickly collect responses to ensure all parties are aware of unfolding situations
Policies & Procedures
- Coordinate vaccinations, visitations and care plan reviews
- Guideline and policy updates
- Inform others of procedural changes to allow for preparation and avoid any unforeseen hitches
- Distribute protocol reminders and follow-ups
- Coordinate maintenance work
- Giving thanks and encouragement
- Inviting individuals to 1:1 support
- Announcements about upcoming events
- Informing and reaffirming training
With all of these uses and many more, ACM lets you do more than just save on the cost of communication, it gives the opportunity for social care providers to:
- Improve communication and coordination by making large-scale outreach take just seconds. Individuals receive messages on their preferred devices via voice, text or email
- Be sure high quality and frequency communication doesn’t need to come at the cost of direct care or social care professionals' time
- Achieve consistency of messaging, allowing families to feel closer than ever to homes with more information by replacing manual and resource-heavy paper-based process
- Automate contact management and ensure speed & accuracy, reaching the right people on their preferred devices at the right time
- Leverage existing technology within homes through integration
Haelu are proud to have brought Cliniconex’s Automated Care Messaging to the UK and integrated Automated Care Messaging with Mobile Care Monitoring. ACM is quick to deploy, especially with integration and requires little-to-no training. In fact, right now, for Person Centred Software customers, Haelu is running a summer campaign to ensure social care providers, their staff, residents and families can all experience the benefits of paperless communication. To learn more about Haelu's summer offer, ACM at no cost for three months, click here.
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