Future Healthcare

On course to a paperless world

Going paperless – is it really possible? It’s not yet happened in private practice, but the direction of travel is clear, says Kingsley Hollis.

An article in Business Week in 1975 predicted that the ‘office of the future’ would be paperless.

With a personal computer on every desk, companies would have no need to generate reams of paper because they could automate, process and store documents in digital form.

But more than 40 years on, this prophecy has yet to materialise, particularly in the healthcare sector. 

Despite being surrounded by information and communications technology, many of us are still regularly printing documents, using paper diaries and corresponding by mail. 

In fact, a recent poll of NHS trusts by the Royal College of Surgeons found there were almost 9,000 fax machines still in use across the country.

Healthcare providers in both the public and independent sectors are rightly investing in technology such as robotic assisted surgery or medical imaging equipment with the potential to transform patient treatment outcomes. 

However, when it comes to our own practices, nothing radical has changed. Our continued paper-pushing may be a case of ‘old habits die hard’, but perhaps it is also because we need to be clearer about benefits and also the challenges of going digital.