It’s common for a medical practice to assume that if they’ve embraced the use of electronic medical records (EMR) or completed their electronic health record (EHR) conversion, they’ve completed the steps necessary to going paperless. The reality is much more complicated.
The Limits of EMR and EHR
Is it better for a medical practice, assisted living facility or another healthcare provider to use EMR and/or EHR than to use a paper document? Of course it is. However, that doesn’t mean that the conversion to going paperless is truly complete. In fact, it’s just the first step toward a truly paperless workforce.
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The problem is that healthcare organizations are simply not getting all the benefits they could be getting from going paperless. They generally still manage tons of paper, which can prevent a truly integrated care team. The goal should be to ensure that all providers have access to the latest information in real time. Document management software makes this possible.
Why Haven’t More Healthcare Practices Gone Completely Paperless?
If going paperless is such a valuable process, why haven’t more healthcare organizations gone paperless? There are actually several reasons:
• People prefer paper documents. While all the reasons we’re listing for people to not embrace paperless office spaces are true, they often boil down to this single truth: people prefer paper documents. This is generally because they don’t feel comfortable learning new technologies and they’re simply used to paper documents. These issues can be overcome once they realize the many benefits of using document management software.
• There is great complexity involved. Physicians can have hundreds of patients with records that span decades. This can make it seem difficult to find a paperless system that meets their needs.
• Healthcare organizations receive documents in many different formats. While this may seem like a drawback to going paperless, the reality is that a good document management software can handle documents of all types.
• Paperless solutions don’t always meet workflow needs. Many people in the healthcare industry work around even the best solutions if they’re not convinced they can work within their existing workflow. They must be convinced that any new system is going to increase their productivity.
Going Paperless Achieves Much More than Removing Paper from the Office
While cutting down on paper costs is a worthy reason to go paperless, there are many other benefits achieved when healthcare organizations update to document management software.
• Numerous redundant systems can be replaced by a single one. Many healthcare practices use numerous systems and in many cases must input the same information into several different databases. This is a huge burden on staff and a time waster. Document management software is not only compatible with EMR technology, but it can actually replace it. Plus, it’s less expensive. Good document management software can truly do it all: print, scan, copy, fax, securely store documents, provide advanced document retrieval services and serve as a backup server to prevent data loss.
• Indexing has never been easier. Document management software can index documents in ways humans can’t. It captures what’s known as “metadata” for every transaction. This includes the user who retrieved the file, the name of the person who requested the file, the date and time it was accessed and the number of copies printed. This is not only convenient, it also meets HIPAA privacy regulations for creating verifiable audit trails.
• Lost files are a thing of the past. To healthcare workers who’ve never used a paperless system, it may seem that paper files are easier to use than digital files. However, the reality is that the workforce wastes an unacceptable amount of time searching for files. They waste an unacceptable amount of time filing papers once they’ve gotten the information they need — and this isn’t even accounting for all the files that are lost or damaged.
• There’s a single access point for patient records. When you have a healthcare organization in which numerous physicians, nurses and administrative staff keep their own records, you’re bound to have records that aren’t completely updated. On the other hand, when there’s a single access point for records, you know exactly what file to update. You can see which physicians they’ve seen and you can instantly access their notes. Put simply: It ensures everyone has access to the most up-to-date files.
• Mobile access is finally here. One of the biggest benefits of using a document management system is that users have instant access via any device that has internet access. Never again will a doctor have to rush back to the office just to get the information they need to answer a simple question.
As you can see, there are drastic benefits to a truly paperless workforce. Not only will it save money on paper, toner and supplies, but the integrity of and access to information will be significantly improved.
Jesse Wood is the CEO of eFileCabinet, Inc.