Guest Column | October 27, 2017

Implement Automated Workflows To Improve Patient Journey


By Chris Click, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager, Nuance Document Imaging Healthcare

There are numerous phases during the patient journey. At each phase an extensive amount of patient health information (PHI) is exchanged and collected by clerks, nurses and physicians. This PHI contains data that pertains to ailments, diagnosis, treatment, insurance and personal information that must be kept secure in order to maintain compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

During each phase, health care organizations rely on employees to copy, print, scan and send paper documents during data collection. These transition points carry with them significant risk. Even if the PHI is housed on an electronic health records (EHR), the manual processes built into an organization’s different phases of the patient journey are cumbersome and increase the likelihood of human error, non-compliance and accidental data breaches.

Workflow automation can streamline the manual processes during each phase of the patient journey, making it easier to for clerks, nurses and physicians to do their jobs quickly and give patients a more pleasant experience. Integrating automation into each phase also allows healthcare organizations to more greatly maintain compliance and safeguard PHI. Here is a closer look at how automation can be integrated into a few of the phases of the patient journey.

Patient Admission

The admission process is filled with paperwork. Incoming patients are required to fill out forms and provide personal information, consent forms, authorization forms, medical history, referrals and prescriptions. Most hospitals and healthcare facilities copy, scan, print, fax and email these forms to store and share the PHI provided. These procedures routinely put the PHI at risk. For example, emails could be accidently sent to the wrong recipient or documents can be printed and left sitting on printers, leaving the documents at risk of being taken by an unauthorized party.

Document imaging software can automate the collection and sharing of PHI while at the same time reducing the vulnerabilities of manual processes. With document imaging software, only authorized staff can access specific devices, network applications and PHI via password or credential-based authorization. Also, user credentials must be verified at all devices, and only verified users can approve emailing, printing or faxing.

Point Of Care

Healthcare organizations are adopting “meaningful use” with certified EHR technologies. However, the multifunction printers (MFPs) used at point of care to review diagnostics and provide status updates also present significant security vulnerabilities.

Adding a layer of automated security to control electronic and paper-based process can help organizations minimize manual work and decisions that invite human error, thus decreasing non-compliance risks. Moreover, automated security features can encrypt documents shared between MFPs, mobile devices, servers and EHRs making documents only accessible to authorized parties.

Patient Discharge

When discharged, patients typically receive an exit package including a hospitalization summary, diagnoses or results, discharge orders & instructions, referrals for follow-up care and prescriptions. Without automated security controls in place this PHI can be accidently misdirected or intentionally compromised.

With automation ingrained in workflows, organizations can protect PHI with features such as user authentication and audit trails on each document and action that presents a security risk. Authorized parties can select required documents at the point of discharge and they can “unlock” an MFD to print forms.

PHI is exchanged during each of these phases of the patient journey, and health care organizations must take the steps to protect both its employees and patients from potential security risks. Workflow automation can give peace of mind to mitigate accidental data leaks, streamline internal processes and provide exceptional patient care.