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The National Health Service (NHS) has a long way to go before it meets its desired goals of going paperless by 2018 and must be handled correctly to reduce risk of failure, according to document solution provider M-Files Corporation.

Julian Cook, director of UK business at M-Files, said: “The plan to have a fully paperless health service by 2018 is a very ambitious goal to strive for.

“With huge swathes of documentation requiring differing levels of security and protection, it will be vital both for the NHS and patients’ peace of mind that an effective document management system is in place to ensure sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands.”

Early this year, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced his intention to see the NHS go paperless by 2018. But recently Dr Robert Wachter, interim head of a governmental review into NHS IT systems, remarked that “a fully paperless system by 2018” was not feasible, and that the NHS was more likely to run an interoperable system switching between digital and paper systems.

A survey undertaken by iGov and Open Text also found that 46 per cent of NHS chief information officers were “concerned or unsure” about making the paperless target, while two fifths have not implemented basic digital patient records.

Cook added: “Areas such as administration and the back office are heavily entrenched in paper and can slow down many of the vital behind-the-scenes actions that contribute to a smooth running healthcare system. It will be vital that the systems leveraged for making the transition are simple, easy for employees to use and easy to configure and update for IT departments.”

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