How Healthcare Organizations Can Reduce Their Reliance on Paper

Guest post by Chris Click, senior healthcare solutions marketing manager, Nuance Communications.

Christopher Click
Christopher Click

Many hospitals, clinics and healthcare organizations today talk about going paperless. In fact, according to a November 2016 research report from IDC, more than 40 percent of healthcare organizations report that they have a paper-reduction initiative in place.

Yet even hospitals that have achieved late-stage meaningful use status still receive and process high volumes of paper. This is especially true for important printing workflows, such as medical records, administrative files, admissions documents, prescriptions and pharmacy information. According to a recent survey by HIMSS Analytics, commissioned by Nuance, 90 percent of survey respondents reported some clinicians still use paper-based documents.

There is no escaping that healthcare organizations are committed to paper, at least for the short-term future. For instance, the IDC study found print volumes are expected to remain flat for the next two years, before beginning to decline after that time period.

When you consider that this amount of paper is expensive (both in terms of actual printing costs as well as overall document management processes), hard to track, and poses serious security and compliance risks, you may wonder why so many healthcare organizations continue to rely on paper.

To help answer the question, we’ll take a closer look at the reasons cited in the IDC report. We’ll also offer a few best practices any healthcare organization can follow now to reduce its reliance on paper to address the challenges posed by manual or paper-based workflows.

Why Paper Use Continues

According to the IDC report, the top reasons hospitals, clinics and healthcare organizations continue to use paper include incompatible document management systems or technology. This issue is most notable between the organization and outside facilities, leaving default paper processes as the best workaround.

Another reason is that many workflows still require paper documentation, most notably patient check-in/belongings forms, records requiring signatures, consent forms and more. Additionally, the majority of prescriptions and pharmacy records are still paper-based. For example, only 10 percent of responding hospitals indicated that prescriptions were electronic.

Lastly, healthcare organizations are large-scale consumers of fax technology. Hospitals report that many still receive and send up to 1,000 pages per month by fax. Interestingly, these hospitals report that while faxing may be an antiquated technology, many are behind in implementing new technology and must continue to focus on what works for them.

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