The switch to electronic health records can be a daunting task. To make the shift less painful, healthcare organizations should first consider taking control the number of documents flowing through the organization – and the costs associated with printing, sharing and updating them. Developing proactive ways to better manage both hard copy and electronic documents will better equip these organizations for the 2014 EHR deadline.
A recent survey of healthcare professionals found that nearly half (46 percent) of respondents chose document and records management as the most inefficient area within healthcare organizations.1 In fact, the survey revealed that document inefficiencies trump traffic woes – 58 percent said that searching for information at work is worse than being stuck in traffic.
The same survey findings revealed a number of document related challenges that contribute to workplace inefficiency:
- 43 percent say there are too many paper-based files
- 30 percent complain of information residing in multiple formats, making it nearly to impossible to search
- 29 percent deal with unorganized electronic files
- 28 percent blame an inefficient document routing and approval process
Despite the difficulties, 85 percent of healthcare professionals believe their frustrations can be addressed with proper solutions. The following are steps an organization can take to better prepare for the upcoming EHR deadline:
Take Inventory of Document Processes
75 percent of healthcare workers report that electronic documents are part of their records management strategy, but 77 percent of healthcare professionals admitted they continue to be frustrated when searching for information needed to do their job effectively.
Developing a streamlined system for both hard copy and digitized documents can improve patient safety, overall efficiencies and cut down rapidly-growing healthcare expenses – while ultimately getting the organization prepared for EHR implementation. What’s more, taking inventory of existing document processes puts healthcare organizations in far better shape to meet security and compliance requirements and take steps toward EHR when the technology infrastructure is ready.
Outsource Document Management
Healthcare organizations do not need to go through the switch to digital alone. Working with the right external experts increases a healthcare organization’s ability to respond to fast-changing requirements related to EHR. An outsourcing partner with healthcare expertise will develop a plan that achieves the right formula for existing employee work habits, daily volume, and organizational readiness for implementing new technology.
Implement Change Management
According to the Congressional Budget Office report issued last May only 12 percent of doctors and 11 percent of hospitals had adopted health information technologies as of 2006. Consider the learning curve associated with training patients, providers, government agencies, and payers on how to apply EHR technology for the betterment of patient care. Develop a structured, deliberate approach to transitioning skills, behaviors and mindset to understand, support and participate in the switch to digital. Change management is not something that happens overnight. The first few years of this journey can be spent helping affected medical professionals overcome the apathy and dismantle the existing attitudes associated with this massive overhaul of records management.
Proactive Planning: Understand the Challenges Upfront
The complexity involved in this switch to digital could prove to be more than a five year journey. The move from today’s time-consuming paper-based processes to a high-functioning, secure and interconnected electronic system will require more than just Congressional funding and an arsenal of technology solutions. It will command standards in process and technology, collaboration across public and private sectors, and an entirely new approach to practicing the business of medicine.
We still face challenges, but we can take this opportunity to get prepared for what’s to come. Implementing a more efficient document management strategy can save up to 30 percent of operating costs, increase productivity, and will certainly make the ‘switch to digital” an easier pill to swallow.
Best Practice Business Tips from Xerox for Healthcare Organizations
In healthcare, administrative expenses are on the rise and pressure to cut costs a top priority. To remedy these challenges, the following is recommended:
- Get Support: Gain buy-in throughout the organization – at the peer and executive level – of a change management communication plan that will ease anxiety and show employees the value of the changes being made.
- Be Responsible: Bite off a reasonable amount – pick a particular business issue, such as reducing front desk printing costs, and accomplish it before moving on to other projects.
- Look Beyond: After initial success, identify ways to continuously improve the organization with proven business processes. For example, Lean Six Sigma methodology can help improve workplace efficiencies. Once the methodologies have been used for document management take a look at how they can improve a facility’s call center or other department.
- Mitigate Risk: When dealing with patient records, security is of top concern. Mitigate risks by identifying potential issues along with how to prevent them.
Paul Lundy is the vice-president of health care at Xerox Global Services.