Guest post by Chris Click, senior healthcare solutions manager, Nuance (Imaging Division).
Many hospitals and healthcare organizations say they’re committed to moving to a paperless or paper-light environment. Greater document digitization is key to a more seamless flow of information within the healthcare enterprise, increasing worker productivity and reducing costs while also enhancing patient data security and ultimately improving quality of care.
Electronic health records (EHRs) are viewed as a foundational component of this strategy. In 2016, more than 95 percent of all eligible and critical access hospitals demonstrated meaningful use of certified health IT including EHRs, according to Health IT Dashboard. The conventional wisdom would lead some to expect subsequent decline in paper usage, but quite the opposite is happening.
Studies have shown that despite the growing adoption of EHRs and other digital technologies, paper in the healthcare enterprise remains prevalent – and is even growing. Experts say hospitals are seeing as much as an 11 percent increase in their annual print volumes driven by the Meaningful Use program, the Affordable Care Act, ICD-10, and the adoption of electronic record-keeping.
Why is this happening? Sometimes we find that physicians to not yet fully trust EHRs. Approximately 27 percent of a doctor’s time is spent with patients, the rest being spent on office work, documentation and EHRs – a common source of physician frustration. Also, disjointed processes of gathering paper-based information from a variety of points within a facility lead to delays in uploading this information to the EHR – leading to physicians keeping copies of patient files on hand.
EHRs alone are not enough to decrease the mountains of paper in hospitals and healthcare facilities. Organizations should consider augmenting EHRs with the following capabilities:
Integrated Document Workflows
Even healthcare organizations that have achieved late-stage meaningful use continue to print and process high volumes of paper for assorted reasons – from patient admissions and discharge, to belongings and consent forms, to prescriptions and pharmacy records. The benefits of EHRs can only be achieved insofar as they are integrated with digitally-based document workflows – the series of electronic steps by which a process is executed.
Consider physicians submitting prescriptions to pharmacies. When the EHR is directly integrated into this process, it can be automatically flagged if the patient is on another medication or has an existing condition which could cause an adverse reaction. If the EHR is not integrated, the entire process is disjointed and not as seamless and safe as possible. Or, consider the discharge process – when the EHR is integrated, discharging physicians have immediate access to patient files and charts – negating the need to print this information. Furthermore, studies show that “hybrid” paper-electronic workflows are ripe for error.