There are many reasons for an office to go paperless – indeed at a time that we need to preserve our trees more than ever, it is alarming to learn that paper usage has risen by 400% in the last 40 years. Trees play a critical role in absorbing C02 from our atmosphere and producing oxygen in turn to help support life on our planet. Rapid deforestation is a massive concern for our environment and with so much of it taking place to create paper products anything that you can do to reduce your use of paper will contribute towards a healthier planet for us all.
So where to begin? It can seem like an impossible task – so much of the way we work revolves itself around the use of paper from handing out documents in meetings, to the signing of contracts and the use of trial bundles at court, but it can be easier than you think to reduce the amount of documents you need to print and manually circulate around the office, especially if done one step at a time.
Emailing rather than sending letters, paying invoices by bank transfer or credit card, using digital calendars to organise reminders and employee holidays and scanning files rather than keeping hard copies are all good places to start.
Software like Docusign and E-fax have allowed businesses to drastically cut down on the amount of paper used and there are plenty of different software options available to assist with other everyday office tasks too such as the introduction of case management systems with secure portals which ensure digital documents can be shared and viewed without the requirement to print.
Aside from the environmental considerations, there are other benefits worth considering:
Reducing costs – One might think that the savings made on reducing paper in the office would be negligible – not so! An average UK employee uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year, that’s 20 reams of paper (500 sheets per ream) or 4 boxes of paper in total with an estimated cost of £10 per box. This calculation doesn’t even factor in the costs associated with ink, printer maintenance or the cost of purchasing paper files and cabinets to store the records within. Secure shredding services and courier/postage costs are other costs to consider.
Creating additional data security – Files and records kept online can be password protected and extra layers of security added. Documents kept in filing cabinets or storerooms, or those which are required to be transported by courier service, are open to theft or access by unauthorised people resulting in potential security breaches, data protection contraventions and loss of money. By creating additional data security you will be reducing the risk of a data breach and potential fines from industry ombudsmen.
Accessing data more effectively – At the touch of a few buttons and within seconds you can have access to the exact file or document required. Imagine the time saved spent searching through a multitude of folders – no matter how effectively organised your system is, nothing can beat the speed and efficiency of storing your documents digitally. Another bonus is being able to access the files remotely and at any time, facilitating home and remote working more effectively.
Mitigating human error – Digital documents are not only easier to locate, they are far easier to file in the first instance. It’s estimated that 3% of all paper documents are filed incorrectly leading to hours of precious time and resources being wasted looking for what often turn out to be mislabelled or misfiled documents. Add to that the fact that if you store your reports digitally there is software available that will update your report in real time ensuring it will never be out of date or inaccurate and you can see how storing your files digitally can really benefit your business.
So, where does a paperless working ethos come into play with the collation of medical and other records in personal injury claims?
At DMR Collation, physical paper records form a major part of our business. Unfortunately, with the restrictions of current technology, one printed bundle of records will normally be required to facilitate the initial sorting, indexing and pagination of records. However, our system of work then removes the need for any further future printing of records by the client with the digital documents being returned securely via a shared client portal.
All our collated records are scanned and returned in digital format along with digital copies of any prepared indexes, chronologies or other documentation.
At DMR Collation we actively encourage our clients to choose digital, rather than paper return of records, and our fixed cost scheme reflects this with a lower charge being made for work where clients opt for a digital only return of completed instructions.
A service which we have implemented which is helping to reduce our clients’ paper usage is our Digital Booklet Service. Our Digital Booklets are an amalgamation of the prepared index, chronology, scanned records and any prepared schedules (such as a schedule of radiology). The digital booklet is bookmarked and hyperlinked from all page references to the actual record, meaning you can view the record referred to with one click of a button, saving an immeasurable amount of navigation time for lawyers and experts alike.
Not only is this service advantageous for all the reasons set out in this article, it also allows the finished product to be fully searchable. Our clients are able to locate any part of the chronology speedily saving them time and resources, and quite possibly a headache in the process!
 Where records are disclosed in a digital format prior consideration is given to the possibility to collate digitally prior to printing.