Innovation and changeCloud ComputingDigital document solutions and the public sector (Part 1)

Digital document solutions and the public sector (Part 1)

We reveal the ways health sector organisations are using digital document solutions to boost service delivery

Within the UK’s public sector, much has been said about digitisation. The NHS is a good example; dominating the headlines is Paperless 2020, the wide-ranging NHS plan to phase out paper usage within a couple of years. While this ambitious target is unlikely to be met – a recent report from Digital Health Intelligence concludes that the government’s target for all NHS hospitals to become paperless will not be met before 2027 – digitisation can be a great tool for health sector organisations and the wider public sector, especially from a customer service perspective.

Tony Hughes, UK Product Strategy Director at Civica says: “Each year, new data is released that shows customer service and the customer experience are more important than ever. According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. And it’s not just the private sector that is sitting up and taking note. The public sector, you could argue, is in an even tighter spot, as it’s faced with the challenge of significantly improving service delivery and customer experience but with dwindling budgets.

“No matter which organisation they are dealing with, today, citizens expect faster response times with access to accurate and complete information in an efficient and timely manner. For public services up and down the country, effective document management, combined with automated workflow, has become an essential tool to help translate service user data in the context of growing customer expectations.”

Hughes points to a couple of health sector organisations that have implemented document management systems to help meet customer expectations.

“Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust recently implemented a flexible, cloud-based clinical document management system with a single sign-on portal. Designed to address the Trust’s immediate and on-going needs, it enables a real-time single view of patients by unifying and structuring clinical data to allow users access to critical information. Electronic document management, with its access to live health data, not only provides improved quality of service and care but it also allows heightened standards of clinical safety and enhanced employee productivity and resource management.”

These benefits extend well beyond health too. “This enriched management of interactions has benefits to customer service throughout the whole public sector,” continues Hughes. “For example, South Hams and West Devon Borough Councils have implemented a single integrated platform incorporating workflow and document management, CRM and a customer portal as part of its shared service transformation programme. The single platform enables customers to engage with council services and access data any time and on a device of choice whilst providing the council with a single solution to manage interactions. Data and information is captured, and using automated workflow seamlessly delivered around the organisation. Importantly, status updates are communicated to citizens, improving the customer experience.

“Public services are complex organisations that deliver a wide array of services to millions of citizens. As they continue to battle the need to deliver essential services with fewer resources, developing electronic document management systems is key to enhancing interactions with citizens whilst delivering long-term operational efficiencies.”

Paperless ambitions

Shifting focus back to the NHS, Jean van Vuuren, Regional Vice-President UKI, Middle East, South Africa at Alfresco says that the health service is one area of the public sector that is really benefiting from document management solutions and process automation systems to improve customer service.

“In 2013, former Health Minister Jeremy Hunt challenged the NHS to go paperless by 2018. This was later revised to 2020, but the objective of removing paper from the system remains a key ambition for the NHS. By digitising documents and the associated processes supporting the document and records, NHS staff can access information instantly via any device, regardless of location. This improves efficiencies and patient care while also delivering long-term cost savings.”

A major NHS Trust in England, for example, moved to an automated electronic form and process system to streamline its emergency admittance process. Previously, when a patient was advised to attend, their forms were hand-delivered to Emergency Room staff ahead of the patient’s arrival. This meant medical staff did not have immediate access to the patient’s treatment records, leading to the potential for patients to attend unnecessary consultations. In addition, a paper-based system required records to be scanned onto the system, a time and labour-intensive process. With the Electronic Document Management and Process Automation system, teams now retrieve past records on the go. Not only does this improve the patient experience – for example, patients no longer need to repeat sensitive information on arrival – but also the number of unnecessary admissions decreased significantly, reducing pressure on frontline staff.

Driving digitisation

Another organisation working with healthcare providers to drive digitisation is Xerox. Jonathan Elliott, Director & General Manager, Public Sector, Xerox UK says: “At Xerox, we firmly support this drive to digital and have developed a strong portfolio of services and capabilities to aid the public sector in improving their customer service. We have vast experience in helping public sector organisations, supporting local government, higher education, central government and the NHS in adapting a paperless approach.

“Within the context of healthcare, the pressure is on to offer a wider range of digital services and do “more with less” resources. Working alongside the NHS, Xerox has digitised the process around patient appointments for a range of hospitals. Rather than being heavily dependent on paper letters, we now support some NHS trusts with SMS and e-delivery of documentation and converting legacy paper processes to digital.

“Previously Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust sent out more than one million outpatient appointment letters each year, but this time-consuming process diverted more than 45 staff away from dealing directly with patients and outdated databases meant that many letters were never received.  Xerox’s Hybrid Mail service has allowed employees to send documents from their desktops in a few clicks and has resulted in only a 2% delivery failure rate, down from 60% due to better data control and tracking.

“By ensuring that patient history is always readily available, Xerox’s electronic records system used by some NHS trusts is supporting the health economy. Digitalising patient data means that there won’t be a period of delay, and hospitals can expect to see an improved accuracy of diagnoses, treatment plans, and outcomes for patients; the most vital aspect of customer service.”

Allowing employees to shine

The vast size of public sector organisations can mean that things naturally move slowly, with processes spanning different departments and often concerning external citizens. However, the right technology can deliver the efficiencies that allow employees to shine and, according to Jacqueline de Gernier, Area Vice President at DocuSign, healthcare is a prime example.

“NHS trusts that take document management digital can streamline processes and respond to patient enquiries more efficiently. Patient data can be obtained more quickly, resulting in GP appointments and prescriptions being processed at a faster rate, benefiting both the organisation and the patient.

“Adopting a digital strategy also offers the opportunity to work on documents collaboratively. Staff being able to access information anytime, from anywhere not only benefits the internal organisation, it can also aid patient-facing employees in dealing with complaints in a more efficient manner.”

DocuSign suggest that three areas should be prioritised when introducing digital document solutions:

1. Security should be prioritised

In the current climate where data privacy is such a hot topic amongst citizens, security is more important than ever in the public sector. Leaving sensitive records on paper is infinitely less secure than a complete digital audit trail that comes with taking document management online. According to a recent report, a significant number of organisations are still using fax, leaving themselves open to malicious attacks. With currently little being done to secure fax lines, and a reported 9,000 fax machines still in use within the NHS, this is a prime example of why trusts should consider implementing digital systems.

2. Avoiding upheaval

Across the public sector, taking these processes digital isn’t unrealistic. The right digital document management solution will function on top of existing legacy systems, meaning teams don’t have to overhaul their IT infrastructure to deliver the highest level of service for citizens. As a result, public sector bodies can make improvements at the same time as saving huge amounts of time and money.

3. Protecting against fraud

Implementing digital systems can also benefit the perhaps lesser known departments within the NHS. The NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) focuses on the protection of NHS resources, as losses to fraud and other economic crime in the NHS were estimated at £1.25 billion for the year 2016/17. Digitising these processes and delivering fully auditable trails makes a huge difference in the fight against fraud and corruption, when budgets are at a premium.

As Jacqueline quite rightly told us, public sector organisations are complex and delivering the highest level of service to citizens is hugely important. Going digital is going to be pivotal to allowing hard-working public sector employees to excel now and in the future. There is no room for complacency, this is a critical juncture.

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