THE MYTH OF GOING ‘PAPERLESS’
The unique attributes of paper records
In many institutions globally, eliminating and thereby ceasing the usage of paper in offices remains one of the most visible objectives. However, despite the bulkiness and consumption of too much space associated with it, various institutions are demonstrating a continued paper use in their day-to-day operations. The continued usage can be attributed to different critical reasons which make paper unique and hence stand out from electronic records. The unique attributes of paper have enabled it to occupy gaps in information use regarding accessibility, timeliness, and also dependability. This analysis has revealed four high-level reasons for continued paper use: psychological factors, technological gaps, human and ergonomic factor, and regulatory factors (Dykstra et.al. 2009)
Familiarity and Comfort
Paper has been known to interweave the medical practice and social fabric of team members in institutions. For long, a close relationship has been established between humans and paper. There has been an observation that individuals are by day valuing the tangible presence of paper in offices with an apparent desire for a document which they can possess, see and hence hold. The electronic replacements of paper have been found by many to be upsetting. Users frequently have mentioned difficulties with understanding and processing information presented in an electronic form as compared to paper (Dykstra et.al. 2009).Users point out that it is indeed easier to understand information that has been presented on paper since they look at it and focus on thinking about that particular information.
The design of paper can be refined and optimized for human use. Through incorporating its current characteristics of accessibility and ease of use, paper such as sticky notes can be employed in communicating simple requests, comments and even as a reminder tool.
In the modern world, electronic structures are prevalent with over 94% of even important access medical institutions utilizing them. However, since many of this medical institutions have taken an incremental approach in implementing the electronic systems, some units are bypassed, and this results in systems that are partly paper, and partly electronic. Paper as such comes in handy in filling the gaps generated. Elsewhere, no electronic computer system can be available at all times. Paper backup processes hence help institutions avoid grinding to a halt during down-time attributable to either system failure or during maintenance (Dykstra et.al. 2009).
Elimination of Paper Records
To advocate for digital medical practices, the United States Federal Government formulated a plan to offer incentives to medical practices if they indeed started using digital record systems. Nevertheless, with nearly half of the physicians in the country still relying on paper records for most patient care, not every doctor in practice remains equally enthusiastic about the switch to electronic documents. Dr. Mike Spangler, a practicing physician for 40 years, is not convinced that switching to electronic records is going to improve things. “It’s going to take a lot of time, it’s going to decrease productivity. It’s going to be very expensive,” he says (Kaiser Health News, 2013). Paper persistence, is, and remains one of the most human of factors. Even though electronic technologies are rapidly becoming more paper-like by day through evolving into minute, lighter, cheaper and portable options, paper documentation is still a crucial requirement in many sectors for advanced instructions and narcotic prescriptions (Dykstra et.al. 2009). Many consent forms in medical institutions for various procedures including surgeries more often persist in the paper. In many institutions altogether, tasks are get done by a correlation of workers and objects. This object comprising majorly paper not only supports the work being done but also by taking part in the work, brings about the task completion.
Replacement of paper in offices is not an ordinary thing hence it requires time and patience. Given enough time, the electronic systems can become as good and useful as paper. Finding ways to accomplish work in the electronic medical systems may require adapting old methods to fit the emerging new environment. As the enhanced electronic devices take on the ecological flexibility of paper, we can expect them to take on more of paper’s roles. Nevertheless, paper will continue to fill many gaps in global institutions, from psychological, technological, ergonomic, to regulatory.
Paper has a prominent place, filling vital roles in global institutions. Eliminating paper from these institutions remains a journey to make. As the institutions embrace and incorporate electronic records systems, they should not expect the total elimination of paper nor should they restrict access to paper by staff, the use of paper forms, or the ability to print documents (Dykstra et.al. 2009). Paper usage more so in medical institutions has a positive impact on patient care as it serves efficiently as an easy to carry and easily disposable digital connection, supporting the data transfer between physicians and patients. This allows adequate care to continue during outages, and fills gaps in the organization thus helping the physicians. As the digital systems assume the storing role played by paper in institutions, paper will keep changing from a storage medium to a vital and an acting communication medium, filling gaps created by the prevailing technology. Elimination of paper is not coming anytime soon.
Ideal Paper/Digital Ratio
Many physicians in medical institutions globally have pointed out that they only have to employ the use of electronic records at the workplace because of the mandatory environment in which they are practicing. Most of this physicians, 11 out of 17, have actually confessed that if the electronic system were not necessary, they would not dare make any use of it. In fact, a majority of physicians 12 out of 17 point out that they would consider use paper if that were an option, both in the workplace and in their future practice (Ilie et al., 2007) Physicians have well pointed out that employing electronic systems in medical institutions brings more relative disadvantages as compared to paper record-keeping. One major issue cited has been that it requires relatively more time to document medical information in these electronic systems as compared to dealing with paper records. With one medium sized medical institution printing and destroying 40% of paper records monthly, and U.S. offices experiencing a growing number of paper pages consumed approximately 20% annually, I would recommend that the employment of paper and electronic system in institutions stand at 65:35 percent respectively. With this ratio, operations in various organizations globally will inevitably run smoothly.