As the National Health Service in England moves towards an entirely paperless system of storing and sharing records, the scanning of legacy documents has become a key priority.
Under plans set out by government, NHS England is expected to provide all health professionals with access to real-time, online patient data by 2020. It is a transformation requiring hundreds of millions of paper records to be scanned and their contents stored and managed in digital format. With the target date just four years away, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) is striving to take on as much of the scanning work as they can.
Established by government as a Special Health Authority with a remit to deliver a range of critical central services to the NHS, the NHSBSA has huge experience in converting legacy documents to digital. In addition to successfully delivering digitisation projects for NHS Dental Services and the North East Ambulance Service, the Authority currently scans around 40 million prescriptions every month. In keeping with its aim to be the delivery partner of choice to the NHS for business solutions, its goal is to offer a cost-effective and market-leading scanning solution. It has recently added OPEX Falcons to its fleet of scanners.
Doing more for less
In common with health services all over the world, the NHS is under pressure to do more for patients while at the same time working with finite financial resources. As NHSBSA Head of Prescription Services Martin Kelsall recently pointed out, the digitisation programme is expected to channel money to patient care by enhancing collaboration and embedding operational efficiencies. The Authority is committed to delivering £1bn to patients. “By providing scanning solutions for Trusts, clinical commissioning groups and other NHS support providers, we can help them meet their savings targets and the money saved can be used to support frontline services,” he said.
Meeting the challenge
But digitisation is a mammoth task. The challenge facing NHS managers lies in moving to a paperless age without compromising the integrity of information currently stored within legacy documents. Not only is the scale of the scanning programme itself daunting– with hundreds of millions of documents to be processed – but it is also a highly complex and potentially difficult undertaking. For instance, old NHS documents are often in poor condition. Simply running them through a scanner without careful preparation and subsequent checks on image quality is not an option. The result could be lost information, much of it crucial for patient care.
So when the NHSBSA was looking to enhance its scanner capacity, it required a solution that was capable of handling high volumes of documents, often in less than optimal physical condition.
The OPEX Falcon Series of scanners
And with these requirements at the fore, the NHSBSA has purchased 15 OPEX Falcon Document Scanning Workstations.
The ability to scan direct from folder or envelope without time consuming and costly pre-preparation of documents was a key consideration. OPEX Falcon comes equipped with a large touchscreen monitor that allows NHSBSA personnel to check the quality of imaging in real time during the scanning process. Equally important, OPEX Falcons use a high capacity hopper, holding up to 700 sheets and offering continuous feeding. Operators can also utilise external devices to capture large format documents or challenging x-rays directly into OPEX’s CertainScan software. These inputs are backed up by a rescan feeder, which enables rapid reinsertion of paper that hasn’t been processed correctly on the first pass.
This combination of features enables the NHSBSA to accurately process a broad range of documents – of varying size and quality – while cutting the time spent on preparation and checking to a minimum. The result is a major saving on labour costs and significantly increased security and integrity of the documents with the scanner constantly collating key process management information as a background task.
“We are very proud to be involved with this project,” said Paul Keefe, UK and Republic of Ireland Sales Manager at OPEX. “The drive towards a paperless NHS is a vital initiative and one that is set to have a real and positive impact on healthcare. By eliminating the time NHSBSA employees would have to spend prepping documents and monitoring the accuracy of scans, our products are helping to maximise the benefits of this vital programme. We are very pleased that the authority has chosen OPEX Falcons as the most efficient and secure way to digitise content.”
Digitisation will not only help to create a more efficient NHS in England but also improve care and outcomes for patients. Once all information is stored in digital form, there will no longer be any need for doctors and other health practitioners to wait for the transfer of physical files – something which may take days or weeks. As a result, health professionals will be empowered to deliver care and make diagnoses with all the available information at their fingertips.
NHS England’s ‘paperless NHS’ programme has recently been awarded a further £4bn investment ahead of the 2020 target, as announced under the last coalition government. By deploying a state of the art scanning solution, the NHSBSA is ensuring that document digitisation is delivered as efficiently as possible. This in turn plays a key role in maximising the return on a significant investment.