The responsibility of making data useful falls squarely on the shoulders of healthcare IT. For healthcare CIOs, the responsibility has shifted from being responsible for infrastructure and software upgrades to evaluating technology solutions and choosing the right ones to improve patient care. Then they have to prove to clinicians, nurses and staff that those solutions are a vital tool both in terms of providing the best care possible as well as supporting the best operational decisions.
Find your path
There is more than one path to a digitised medical record and it is important for each organisation to choose a path that addresses both their resources as well as their strategic plan. A simple and practical approach is to start by digitising your medical records by scanning them. This will accomplish the first three steps to an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution by providing scan, store and retrieve functionality. It will also protect your records against loss – no small concern for most organisations. When properly executed, a scanned medical record will be easily retrievable so clinicians can access information quickly. This is fundamental to supporting both patient safety as well as productivity.
Find what is missing
Clinicians need all of a patient’s information. Unstructured content like paper, faxes, images, photos, and forms need to be stored in one central location to provide ease of access for staff who need it. If clinicians have to go to paper charts or multiple applications to get what they need, clinician adoption and satisfaction rates will suffer. Worse yet, clinicians could make a care decision without all the available information and place patients’ safety at risk.
No matter how or where patient information originates, it has to be easy for clinicians and staff to get to it the moment they need it. Just scanning and archiving content isn’t enough. Therefore, CIOs have to figure out how to capture all of a patient’s information and make it easily retrievable.
Create a complete record
To capture and centrally store the information most health record systems overlook, many hospitals adopt an ECM strategy. At the centre is an ECM solution that digitises traditional hard copy records and integrates that clinical content into their existing systems.
With ECM, health information management departments scan or import clinical information (paper documents, EKGs, medical images (DICOM and non-DICOM content) which may then be accessed directly through the ECM or integrated to the EMR. Users easily pull up what they need, when they need it, in context, all in one screen. Caregivers will spend less time looking for information and more time acting on it, making more informed decisions for patient care. Tie documents, data and processes together organisation-wide paper and disconnected systems aren’t just a problem for hospitals trying to improve clinical content management. Billing and accounts receivable, payroll and personnel, and accounts payable departments all struggle with paper files and slow manual processes.
Those hospitals who’ve adopted an enterprise-wide ECM strategy extend their ECM solution across their organisation, tying together documents, data and processes in every department. The same ECM system benefitting clinical areas brings benefit to other departments too. Through its quick deployment, this one system creates exponential value at a fraction of the cost of managing mountains of paper and manual processes. An ECM strategy not only eliminates paper, but also automates processes across the organisation, saving both time and money.
The final analysis
In the end, the most important goals are always patient safety, improving the end user experience, and controlling if not reducing costs.
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About the Author
Susan deCathelineau, MS, RHIA, is vice president Global Healthcare at Hyland Software
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