Do you have a scanning strategy?

Considerable time has passed since Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt made his “Paperless by 2018” speech, so . . . how much progress have we made and how does this affect document scanning?

Although people are now starting to consider the part document scanning plays in the paperless movement, overall it’s still a rare concept within the NHS. We find that Trusts are still underestimating its part and more importantly, the time and cost involved.

Document scanning has been around for at least 15 years in the NHS. However, it’s rare that you see any real strategic approaches to scanning. In many cases, the scanning division consists of one desk, a small scanner in the corner of the records library, operated by one person. This may have worked for Trusts in the past but with “Paperless” now being presented as a priority and more electronic document management systems coming into practice, this method simply won’t do.

It’s really important to have a strong, realistic scanning strategy.

There are so many key considerations to be made, including scanning onsite or offsite to which there are pros and cons to each. Benefits of scanning onsite include allowing for smoother integration of business processes and reducing the risk of disruption to clinics by providing a better control over casenote flows

It is surprising that some Trusts are still unaware of the standards they must follow, even if they have been scanning health records for a long time.

On the other hand, for some Trusts, scanning onsite may not be the answer. Onsite means using more floor space, employing lots of people and spending thousands of pounds on equipment, so it really does depend on the Trusts objectives. It is important to bear in mind that each Trust is different and it isn’t the case of one size fits all.  In most cases, budget plays a colossal part and the decisions made on what to scan often depend on how much money the Trust has to spend.

There is no doubt that document scanning in the long term has huge cost saving implications whether from saving on storage space or other factors. However, reasons for adopting a scanning strategy are not always financial; Information Governance is also relevant. The scanning, destruction and storage of electronic health records and how these processes are documented should not be disregarded and there are standards to adhere to in the form of BS 10008 (British Standard for Evidential Weight and Legal Admissibility of Electronic Information). It is surprising that some Trusts are still unaware of the standards they must follow, even if they have been scanning health records for a long time. Making sure this is considered when the scanning strategy is defined is key.

Trusts often do not realise the sheer amount of preparation involved when it comes to document scanning. It’s important to have a strategic, project based scanning approach where key objectives are outlined and linked back to the benefits highlighted in the overall “Paperless” vision.

Perhaps document scanning has taken a back seat in the entire EPR project . . . until now.

Trusts should start by developing a scanning strategy and making sure a separate scanning budget is obtained. Each Trust will need to do some sort of scanning whether as a large scale operation or a smaller departmental project. Scanning may only be a small stepping stone in the entire digital process but either way it cannot be avoided. Don’t make the mistake of dodging the bullet!

Need help with your Scanning Strategy? Speak to one of our specialist NHS Consultants on 01733 394269 or contact us.