“These are changing times for NHS Trusts, but one challenge has remained consistent: how to best optimise the patient record experience,” Stefan Chetty, Director of Public Sector, Restore Records Management, highlights.
Restore Records Management has published a white paper that focuses on a hybrid option, where physical and digital patient records live side by side, taking advantage of recent innovation in physical storage, making tailored solutions possible.
The white paper discusses costs, what to consider with a hybrid digital and physical records approach, debunking the myths around outsourcing records to offsite storage, results achieved, and a case study with County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.
Savings: the rule of three
Through optimisation of records, Restore Records Management highlights three main saving categories that can really make a difference to NHS organisations across the country.
Conserving space by minimising physical files leads to cost savings through reduced storage and maintenance expenses, while also creating additional room for alternative uses. So, the challenge for Trusts is to accurately analyse their current storage costs and compare them to the costs of engaging an offsite storage partner.
The second saving is with people, and the cost to manage the processes within Internal Health Records Libraries. Whether to pick, file, scan files, manage the library and records, the costs should be factored in. Also, the costs of ordering stationary, managing staff rotas and time, even cleaning costs, can amount to a higher cost of internal ownership.
Then there are the efficiency savings. 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. In the case of a missing file, you might include the cost of someone’s time to make a replica; the cost of a new file and the stationery required for it; the cost of delays in clinic; and the time lost by a range of employees who cannot do their job until the paperwork arrives.
Record optimisation in practice
With over 890,000 paper-based records filed across different filing systems, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT) was in need of a centralised digital system through which clinicians could retrieve and transfer medical files at the point of care. The team wanted to see cost savings, standardisation of the records archive, and paperlite operations throughout the trust.
Restore Records Management put in place a two-step process to help CDDFT. Firstly, an automated ordering system was developed which draws 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. The second part of the process involving Restore Records Management specialists working 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.
Throughout the project, Restore Records Management also provided wrap-around support to the trust, uplifting records where required to alternative premises, helping CDDFT to develop a full understanding of the archive, and implementing a records management system including application of barcoding tech to allow for accurate live tracking.
The project at CDDFT has seen records digitised at a rate of 2,000 per day, with 366,000 patient files scanned within the first 12 months. Record retrieval volumes have 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.
Mark Herkes, head of health records at CDDFT, concludes: “Restore Records Management has saved us money and vital space for clinical care. We now have quicker access to patient information providing the patient with a better experience.”
Driving efficiencies that improve patient care
Space for new beds, Restore Records Management estimates the NHS could make space for at least 10,000 much-needed beds in the UK by moving more patient records offsite.
No more lost or misplaced files; a solution for loose filing; and an end to note retentions, whereby physical notes are kept in one location when they are required in another. It is estimated that around 25 percent of clinical notes required on a daily basis can be unavailable in this way, posing clear problems for patient care, safety and experience.
NHS staff often have to wrangle paper files so large that they are almost unmanageable, with years of patient history crammed inside. Restore Records Management actively handles thickness and condition of files to ensure practicality, and digitisation makes it easier still.
You can expect to see a speedier process for retrieving patient notes; you can auto generate your file requests; and you can develop clearer working instructions, with Restore Records Management working with trusts to produce agreed business rules and consistent forms to ensure standardisation.
As Stefan Chetty, Restore Records Management’s director of public sector, puts 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.”