Paper records take up space. Finding what you need inside them is time consuming. And it’s relatively easy to misplace or lose a file. Many health care systems are transferring their paper records to digital records that can be sent to an Electronic Health Record (EHR), research database or other desired locations. In addition to medical records, hospitals are scanning, sharing and saving prescriptions, insurance documents and IDs.
Hospitals and healthcare institutions are using high-speed document scanners to convert paper files to digital, to increase efficiency and accuracy. When healthcare systems improve efficiency, providers can spend additional time caring for patients. By improving accuracy of patient records through reducing errors and omissions from paper files, health care systems can provide a higher quality of care. According to HealthIT.gov, 74 percent of providers surveyed reported that EHRs enhanced overall patient care. A separate survey by HealthIT.gov found that 79 percent of providers reported an increase in practice efficiency when using EHRs.
By moving to digital documentation, healthcare organizations also gain mobility, which leads to even more efficiency. Providers can use mobile devices to access patient information from any location—both in the hospital and outside. Through searchable PDFs, providers and hospital staff can also find exactly what they need much faster than leafing through pages of paper. This leads to quicker treatment, which can make a difference in patient outcomes. By communicating real-time information, providers can also collaborate with each other in a way not possible with paper documentation.
Because transitioning from paper to digital using document scanners is a complex process, healthcare institutions must carefully plan the transition.
Here are five best practices hospitals and healthcare organizations are using to see the highest level of efficiency gains:
1. Use a document management system.
Moving from paper to digital makes processes more efficient. But an important step of increasing productivity is developing a seamless process for managing the digital files. Using a document management system (DMS), health organizations can automate tasks such as advanced workflow integration, which increases efficiency and means staff has more time to care for patients. This reduces time spent looking for information as well as misplaced digital files. Using a DMS can also help hospitals overcome the confidentiality concerns with digital records. DMS systems use encryption, access control and authentications, which ensures hospitals meet HIPAA standards and can increase compliance with regulations.
2. Select a high-quality scanner that meets your healthcare system’s needs.
Document scanners are available at all price points, but they vary widely in terms of quality and features. Start by thinking about how your organization will use the scanner as well as your budget. Automatic feeders save time over flatbed scanners but are typically more expensive. Where will you use the scanner? Some hospitals use portable scanners for scanning on location while others opt for a larger scanner used in a central location in the facility. Also consider whether you plan to search the digital versions or simply view the documents. Using a scanner that creates searchable PDFs, providers can save significant time looking for information by being able to do a simple search instead of paging through the digital versions.
For most healthcare institutions, speed matters—each minute spent scanning is time not spent on patient-based projects or care. If you use a scanner that scans 45 to 65 pages per minute, you can turn 4,500 to 6,500 records from paper to digital in a single day. However, faster scanners typically cost more money. If speed is not a top concern, your organization can save money with a lower-speed scanner.
Scanners that save to cloud-based tools such as Evernote, Dropbox, SharePoint and Google Drive, can increase productivity and reduce manual steps. Look for a scanner that is certified by your DMS vendor to be sure you will not run into any compatibility and integration issues. By selecting a scanner that can be shared on your network, multiple employees can use the same scanner, which reduces hardware costs.
3. Move from paper to digital as part of normal operations.
While setting up scanning documents as a separate project appears to be the most efficient way, this method can create more issues, such as bottlenecks and confusion over the new process. It can also be overwhelming for hospital staff because all the processes are changed at the same time and may require more training time. Additionally, glitches or issues can cause significant time delays due to the volume of the new digital files.
Instead, consider transitioning from paper to digital as part of the healthcare system’s day-to-day operations. One approach is moving to electronic records as part of the regular billing cycle. For example, converting patient files to digital after office visits or procedures allows your team to move all post-appointment processes—such as follow-up, billing issue resolution on a much smaller scale.
4. Use the HealthIT.gov scanning checklist.
Because transitioning to digital involves many moving parts, it’s important to consider all aspects of the transition. HealthIT.gov publishes a series of e-books that walks you through the process of implementing EHRs in your healthcare system. One common issue is making sure that information scanned from paper documents easily maps to your EHR system. Using the HealthIT.gov Chart Migration & Scanning Checklist before scanning can help you reduce issues during the conversion.
5. Check all scanned documents for accuracy.
Because scanned images are only as good as their original copies, it’s important to have a quality control step as part of your process. If possible, have separate groups of employees responsible for verifying accuracy and scanning. Check for legibility, completeness and image quality. Additionally, be sure to verify the patient’s name, record number and date of visit.
Using a document scanner to move to digital can greatly increase your healthcare system’s efficiency during the conversation process. Although services are available to scan your records offsite, many healthcare systems find they gain greater efficiency by integrating the digitizing into their process. By selecting the best scanner for your needs and using a document management system, your healthcare institution can get back to focusing time and attention where it should be—on your patients.
Whether you are making the transition to an Electronic Health Record (EHR) or looking for ways to streamline your processes, learn more about Epson’s document scanning solutions for healthcare.