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'Workflow' or Just Common Sense: How EDMS Emulates Piles of Paper Files Requiring Attention

The 'before': a typical office in a busy district general hospital in 2018 where piles of patient records lay in locations and piles according to what steps were next required. A seemingly chaotic system that dealt with thousands of patients and enquiries every year.

Doctors, akin to any group of industrious individuals, have long counted on visual cues to manage their workload. Cast your mind back to a time when a plastic box full of paper files denoted your reporting queue. A red folder bursting at the seams signified an array of GP referrals that your medical secretary would announce to all new arrivals in the department. These tactile, visual reminders acted as a form of silent office communication, providing an instant gauge of workloads and priorities. But with the arrival of electronic patient records, this landscape has drastically shifted.

In the age of digitalisation, we find ourselves navigating through infinite lists of reminders, tangled in the web of workflows, shifting from tangible stacks of paper to digital data. Electronic Patient Records (EPR) have replaced the familiarity of the physical world. With the advent of these technologies, the question arises: Why hasn't 'modernisation' been wholeheartedly embraced?

The reason might be as straightforward as it is profound: It lies in the past and the incontrovertible efficiency of being able to size up a process within a second's glance at a stack of work. And it's not nostalgia for a bygone era, it's about efficiency and the human need for direct interaction.

There is an inherent simplicity and immediacy in the system of paper files. It was a system that was built on human senses and intuition. A towering pile of files signaled a busy day ahead, while a dwindling stack gave the promise of brevity. A glance at the boxes provided a sense of accomplishment, and the act of physically moving files from one box to another offered a tangible sense of progress.

Fast forward to the present day, and we find doctors scrolling through electronic lists that seem to regenerate endlessly. The sense of tangibility is lost in translation from physical to digital. While EPR systems offers the benefit of centralising information and reducing physical clutter, it introduces a new type of visual and cognitive load. In essence, busy professionals want their digital equivalent of the old system back.

The challenge that we face now is not rejecting the new technology, but rather integrating it in such a way that it emulates the efficient visual cues of its paper-based predecessor. This begs the question: Why change a system that has worked for over a century? The answer is not to change, but to adapt and enhance.

A well designed electronic document management system (EDMS) has the potential to incorporate the tried-and-true efficiencies of the past. By leveraging smart design and user experience techniques, the software can visually represent the piles of documents, mimicking the look and feel of the physical system.

The location of the digital folders reflect the tasks, just like the paper-based system. By adding these intuitive visual elements, EDMS can transform from a simple repository of electronic files to an interactive workspace that mirrors the best aspects of the physical world. If done right, digital systems can combine the efficiency and intuitive nature of the paper-file system with the advanced technological benefits they inherently offer, like searchability, accessibility, and ease of collaboration.

The 'after' : the electronic document management system (EDMS) harnessed by MedicalSpace is the electronic equivalent of paper folders in piles. Doctors and their teams that have embraced our systems use it for referral triage, reporting and the sharing of sensitive information.

In conclusion, modernisation should not be about discarding what worked in the past, but about enhancing it with the tools and technology of the future. Electronic document management systems have the potential to become not just a digital replica of our old system but an improved version of it. The key to achieving this lies in understanding that sometimes, the best way forward is to look back, acknowledging and learning from the wisdom of systems that have stood the test of time.

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