Scotland eradicating paper letters and postal results between hospitals and GPs

Electronic Document Transfer software implemented by Microtech across all Scottish mainland health boards

The NHS in Scotland is saving millions of pounds after the widespread implementation of a new system between hospitals and GP surgeries that is improving patient safety, cutting costs, allowing seamless communication, and enabling better, faster care for patients throughout the country.

The nationwide deployment of Electronic Document Transfer (EDT) is removing the need for millions of paper documents that have traditionally been sent via post from hospitals to GP surgeries.

There are clear financial efficiencies associated with this, but the importance and impact of a complete clinical record at the right time, in the right place, cannot be underestimated – it is invaluable to both clinician and patient

NHS Scotland first signed up to the national deployment of the Docman Hub in 2011 so that all Scottish hospitals could send documents including outpatient letters and results digitally to GPs. IT support organisation, Microtech, has now completed the rollout across every mainland health board in the country, meaning significant savings on printing and postal costs, as well as far more-secure and timely delivery of vital information for healthcare professionals and their patients.

Dr Beena Raschkes, GP and joint clinical IT lead at NHS Tayside, said: “EDT is transformational. It has completely changed communication between primary and secondary care and taken clinical care truly into the 21st Century. Patient discharge information arrives into our GP surgery soon after the patient leaves the hospital and is legible, clear and informative. In fact, using EDT means we can receive hospital correspondence electronically 48 hours earlier than paper.”

The Docman Hub ingrates directly with Docman, a document management system used by GP surgeries across Scotland. EDT automates the process of sending secure patient documents and delivers them directly to the right place, making it quicker and easier for GP practices to receive information.

Dr Raschkes said: “Any clinician involved with a patient can access up-to-date, legible, clear, concise information exactly when they need it – at the point of care. This is particularly powerful when considering a patient who is in and out of hospital over a short period of time – paper records and correspondence create delays and potentially-prolonged treatment times. With EDT, you simply do not need to wait for the paper record to catch up.

“We’ve now sent over two million letters and reports within NHS Tayside through EDT. There are clear financial efficiencies associated with this, but the importance and impact of a complete clinical record at the right time, in the right place, cannot be underestimated – it is invaluable to both clinician and patient.”

Last year, Scottish health boards used EDT to send 10 million documents electronically. As the types of documents covered by the Docman Hub expand, this is expected to increase to one million documents per month and annual savings of at least £12m by the end of 2015. GP surgeries are now also saving time with document scanning much less frequently and reduced manual inputting, which is improving information quality.

Full support was provided to health boards during the deployment of the EDT system from software provider PCTI, with Mircotech working closely with individual boards to enable testing, project management, piloting, and implementation. Detailed feedback on the needs of each board were built into the process and support provided until successful go live had been achieved.

Significant benefits are now being realised as a result. Patients are benefiting from earlier interventions as GPs are alerted more quickly, with information received on the same day, compared to previous paper documents taking up to a week to reach the surgery. Patients will also now find that their information is consistent as they move across primary and secondary care settings and that their records also far less likely to contain any errors.

EDT is transformational. It has completely changed communication between primary and secondary care and taken clinical care truly into the 21st Century

The system, which automatically collects and distributes letters, eliminates the risk of human error, with a real-time full end-to end audit trail, ensuring security of information and patient confidentiality.

EDT also means better integration of services, with information securely shared across health boards, and the ability to deliver any document to any GP practice in Scotland using Docman GP.

Chris McMail, managing director for Microtech, said: “A typical heath board will send over 500,000 paper documents a year to GP practices, which is a huge volume when you consider the financial and human resource involved in these transactions.

“Our team has worked tirelessly to deliver the Docman Hubs across the whole of Scotland so it is satisfying to see the benefits across primary and secondary care, and ultimately the improvements in health service delivery to the people of Scotland.”

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