New tech does away with paper records
The public sector is declaring war on paper as it tries to make services more efficient by cutting the need to re-enter data.
Last month NHS IT director general Richard Granger described the reliance on paper records in the health service as a risk. "Wouldn't it be interesting to have a target on paper consumption because we know paper is dangerous," he said.
As well as being dangerous paper is expensive to create and store - and not very environmentally friendly.
So as organisations look to keep all their records in electronic formats, getting information off paper is an increasingly important issue.
A number of public sector organisations have been experimenting with the use of digital pen and paper technology.
Leeds City Council is rolling out digital paper and pens to 1,300 social care workers in a bid to save £1.2m by 2008, while social workers in Greenwich have been trialing a digital pen and paper system since April.
Greenwich council social services information systems manager Dave Plumb explained: "There's huge savings to be made from being able to use this sort of technology. It will streamline the way we work."
The council has trialed the technology with 10 social workers and is planning a more extensive project later this year.
The digital pen is slightly larger than the average pen - about the size of a marker. When used on specially printed paper - which features a tiny dot pattern - the pen's camera determine where the pen is on the page. The pen can store 40 A4 pages of text.
"Everybody loved the idea of the pen. You have a pen and a form and a mobile phone - and you are sitting down with a piece of paper and not a laptop or PDA. There was a real feel-good factor," Plumb said.
Staff get more assessments done because they don't have to go back and type up the information, which is sent back via a Bluetooth connection to a mobile phone.
The pens are less likely to be stolen than mobile phones or PDAs and even if they are the data on the phone is encrypted.
The second phase of the trial will see the information sent straight back into the client record systems. The Greenwich trial with IT supplier Serco used technology from Ubiquitous Systems, Nokia and Corelogic.