By HK Bain, CEO, Digitech Systems
The future of EHRs has been a topic of heavy discussion and debate. The world many anticipated coming from Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems is beginning to take shape, but due to the limitations of many practice-and hospital-based systems it is not exactly the future everyone envisioned.
The Document Dilemma
The unfortunate truth is installing an EMR system does not eliminate all paper-based data that goes along with each patient’s detailed medical information. Healthcare professionals have to sift through both paper and digital documents; and patients are still completing forms both digitally and by hand.
The result is an incredible uphill battle for practices to communicate, exchange data, and use information efficiently, not just to gain competitive advantage, but to provide efficient care.
In today’s healthcare marketplace, true interoperability between information management systems is critical, and a competitive advantage is up for grabs to the companies realizing the holes left by their EMRs and how to fill them.
A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Practice Management, found that out of 35,000 online reviews of doctors nationwide, 96 percent of patient complaints are focused on customer service issues — not expertise of clinical skill. While these concerns can be resolved through improved document management, addressing these issues in real-world practice can prove challenging.
Healthcare providers face this challenge as they work to demonstrate the meaningful use of EMR mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Contributing to the urgency is the addition of millions of Americans now participating in the nation’s healthcare system under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), placing increasing pressure on providers to serve more patients efficiently.
In spite of the requirements to implement EMR technology, the office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology reports only 56 percent of all office-based physicians had demonstrated meaningful use of certified health IT at the close of 2015. Many practices are holding out due to a lack of familiarity with digital technology, the problem of integrating legacy documentation or time and cost constraints.
Achieving efficiency is critical to increase staff productivity (a promised result of EMR) and to make good on the technology investments.
By adding Enterprise Content Management (ECM) to the EMR, practices and hospitals around the country are putting an end to record mismanagement resulting in improved productivity and the financial benefits promised by digital implementation, such as:
- faster access to data reduces delays resulting in shorter patient wait times and more time for physicians to focus on patient care
- electronic records minimize errors reading or understanding handwritten notes and improve communication between different providers
- historic views enhance opportunities for improved preventative care
True Interoperability: Does It Exist?
The Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD), a world-class mental health provider, faced these challenges of the EHR and quickly experienced the inefficiencies of hybrid systems where digital and paper-based records must coexist.
Employing more than 500 people, and treating more than 15,000 patients each year, they had thousands of paper records taking over their office space. Like many practices that have switched to EHR, they still saw holes in their processes and wasted productivity:
- 20+ hours each week searching for and retrieving paper records
- $1,300 monthly to house more than 25 years of records offsite
- unending paperwork encroaching on needed space, wasting staff and physician time and inhibiting the benefits of their EHR implementation
They were desperate to find a solution that delivered what the EHR promised, needing a technology that improved productivity by integrating paper and electronic records into a single system. Their specific concerns centered on centralizing more than 10,000 existing paper patient records, and easing the center’s adherence to regulations imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Real Outcomes: Saving Time and Money
MHCD selected Digitech Systems’ PaperVision Capture to scan all existing and new paper-based documentation and PaperVision Enterprise to securely store and manage electronic records.
The combination of ECM with their EHR allowed MHCD to significantly improve processes and patient care.
- converted thirteen rooms previously used for file storage to space for patient care, doctor’s offices, new services and training facilities
- reduced time allocated toward locating records by 90 percent, allowing staff to focus on patient care
- simplified the Center’s ability to maintain strict observance to HIPAA regulations, including the abilities to more easily protect’ Private Health Information (PHI), to guard against unauthorized access to records, to enable audit tracking of all uses of PHI and to simplify exchange of information between providers
Most significantly, an independent analysis of the technology’s value, by Nucleus Research, demonstrated an ROI of 1,315 percent, with total cost savings of more than $225,000 annually. Beyond the financial implications, the practice was able to stop wasting time on paper shuffling and get back to the important focus on patient care and treatment.
As the U.S. healthcare system continues to transition to EMRs, more providers are uncovering the limitations of their systems and are identifying ways to enhance those systems via interoperability. The use of supplemental solutions to bridge the information gap between EMR and paper-based records will be essential. Best of all, the results include decreased wait times for patients, increased efficiency for healthcare professionals and enhanced patient care for all.
About The Author
HK Bain is the president and CEO of Digitech Systems, Inc., a provider of content capturing and management products. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 866.374.3569, or visit www.digitechsystems.com.