Many hospitals and clinics talk about “going paperless” and yet even hospitals that have achieved late-stage Meaningful Use still receive and process high volumes of paper.  In fact, in a Health Data Management article from April – EHRs May Abound, but Document Imaging Still Important – the author asserts that despite the strong push for electronic data: “…Many health systems find that they are dealing with a flood of paper documentation.”  Although Stage 7 hospitals are recognized with distinction for being paperless – what does “paperless” really mean in 2013?

Nearly half of all physicians in America still rely on paper records for most patient care.  This, compounded by ongoing interoperability issues between vendor systems, has translated to the continued use of paper (often in the form of faxes) as a common denominator for sharing patient information between providers.

Today, going paperless means more than just eliminating or limiting how much is printed inside hospital walls.  It also means instituting capabilities and workflows that allow for quick, or almost immediate, conversion of patient information from a paper report to digital format, whether it be into an EHR or enterprise content management (ECM) system.  To support these types of accelerated capture workflows, hospitals and clinics must be able to securely and reliably scan documents directly into the EHR or ECM at, or near, the point of care.

At most hospitals today, incoming paper records are collected from across the facility and then brought to a centralized scanning operation where they are processed and eventually uploaded to the EHR or repository.  While this type of centralized scanning operation works well to accurately archive paper-based records, it can result in significant delays from the time documents are received to when they become available in the EHR – often as much as three days.  This means the most current patient information is not available to clinical teams, which directly impacts the quality of care being delivered to patients.

For healthcare provider organizations working around-the-clock to implement various Meaningful Use requirements, going paperless might seem somewhat of a Herculean task.  The good news is that technology that can create a seamless transition from print-to-digital already exists.  Investing in a solution that converts existing scanners and multi-function peripherals (MFPs) at the point of care into secure on-ramps to the EHR or ECM can provide almost immediate patient information updates.  With a few simple button presses, a document can be scanned and indexed into a patient’s EHR or ECM for final verification in health information management workflows – giving providers faster access to patient information and helping clinics and hospitals move closer to true paperless healthcare.

Regulation deadlines and mandates are fast-approaching, but the technological solutions that can help your organization clear these hurdles have already arrived.  Nuance is partnering with a number of key EHR and ECM vendors to bring this new solution to market, and one of those partners is Hyland Software.  If you’re a Hyland OnBase user and will be at the OnBase Training & Technology Conference (OTTC) later this month, please stop by the Nuance booth to see first-hand how this technology can help accelerate your organization’s efforts to drive toward a completely digital workflow.

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David McKanna

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This was a contributed post by David McKanna. To see more content like this, visit the Office productivity section of our blog.