Speaking at the HC2003 event, Bywater said, "The journey to fulfilling an NHS vision of electronic health records is going to be long and arduous, and it has to start from the paper-dominated world we all inhabit today.
"This is an easy win. You do not have to wait to deliver a perfect electronic patient record system to start working on document management."
Electronic health records form a key part of the government's £2.3bn national programme to overhaul NHS IT. Under the terms of the strategy, electronic patient records will be implemented in all primary care trusts and hospitals by December 2007.
Bywater pointed to the challenge the health service faces in dealing with growing volumes of data, and warned that the amount of paper produced by the NHS is growing at a substantial rate.
He said, "With an unprecedented injection of funds to support the modernisation of IT in the NHS, the time is right to consider how tried and trusted document technologies can be utilised to deliver early successes.
"If you scan the paper records, they can then be attached in digital format to the computer record."
Research from document management specialist Elision found that 13.5 billion pieces of paper are currently held as patient records across primary and secondary care in the NHS.