New White Paper on optimising patient records in the NHS

Restore Records Management has published a white paper that discusses how the NHS can optimise the storage of what can often be unmanageably large files of patients’ notes.

Stefan Chetty, Director of Public Sector and Restore Records Management, said the NHS faces a complex challenge when it comes to improving the handling of patients records: “The expenditure involved in going digital, combined with the challenge of overcoming an historic culture around a preference for paper records, can make it impractical and cost prohibitive.”

With many NHS Trusts still have physical health records libraries on site, going fully digital may not be the best answer. Optimisation may best support the NHS in finding affordable ways to modernise the handling of patient records.

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Through optimisation of records, the paper highlights three main saving categories that can really make a difference to NHS organisations across the country.

  1. Conserving space by minimising physical files leads to cost savings through reduced storage and maintenance expenses, while also creating additional room for alternative uses. To benefit, Trusts must accurately analyse their current storage costs and compare them to the costs of engaging an offsite storage partner.
  2. Managing the processes better can lead to savings: whether it is best to pick, file, scan files, manage the library and records should be factored in. Better management of stationary procurement and managing staff rotas can amount to a higher cost of internal ownership.
  3. Efficiency savings are important: every time a physical file goes missing or there is a delay in locating the correct record, there is a cost and time implication for the healthcare professionals trying to deliver care to patients in need. Being inefficient can be expensive.

Case study at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT) had over 890,000 paper-based records across many filing systems and was in need of a centralised digital system. The trust wanted to see cost savings, standardisation of the records archive and ‘paperlite’ operations.

First, an automated ordering system was developed which drew from the trust’s patient administration system in real time, enabling the reduction of physical deliveries and routing requests for scanning, or else stopping the need for physical records all together. Then management specialists worked alongside the trust to develop a fully electronic clinical document management system which ensured that all records were searchable. This led to the development of a database through which records are digitally accessible whenever required.

Record retrieval volumes reduced from an average of 2,000 per day to 42 per day, with savings around staff time, real estate repurposing, labour and internal transportation, as well as a reduction in environmental impact.

Head of Health Records at CDDFT, Mark Herkes, commented: “We now have quicker access to patient information providing the patient with a better experience.”

As Stefan Chetty put it: “By reducing costs, saving space and increasing efficiency, outsourcing the storage of patient records can achieve that goal – and pave the way for a smoother digital journey in future.”

Find out more here