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This case study reports the reasons why this large, multi-site general practice decided to move towards paperless practice in late 2001, and describes the progress and lessons learned to date. The principal operational reasons for this decision were problems associated with moving paper medical records between surgeries, and the realisation that resources to improve the computerised medical record could only come from redeploying the time spent handling paper records. A comprehensive plan was put in place to shift toward paperlessness. Motivating and changing working practices for clinical and support staff was as a great a challenge as upgrading the technology. The practice upgraded its computerd system and has installed scanning and automated generation of referral and other letters. The support staff skills have evolved from moving records to scanning documents and coding data. All clinical staff now consult on their computer, and code diagnoses and key clinical data. A networked digital dictation system allows typing to be centralised at one location, with the networking allowing printing at any site. Audit and quality improvement activities have increased, as the output from computer searches increasingly represents the quality of care provided. The implications of this case study are that a committed general practice can achieve a largely paperless environment in approximately two years. The practice is now fit to be part of any move towards integration of records within its local health community, and can demonstrate from its computer records that it meets the quality targets for primary care.

Original publication




Journal article


Informatics in Primary Care

Publication Date





157 - 165