How can healthcare organizations really reduce their reliance on paper?

Many hospitals and healthcare organizations say they’re committed to reducing their use of paper and going paperless. Yet the fact remains: Too many still rely on too much printing, which leads to inflated costs, inefficient processes and security and compliance risks. If you’re one, learn what you can do to reduce your reliance on paper and improve key processes.

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

Yet even hospitals that have achieved late-stage Meaningful Use status still receive and process high volumes of paper, especially for important printing workflows such as medical records, administrative files, admissions documents, prescriptions and pharmacy information.

Worse, healthcare organizations are committed to paper, at least for the short-term future. According to this same study, 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 the continued use of paper?

According to the IDC report, the top reasons hospitals, clinics and healthcare organizations continue to use paper include:

  • Incompatible document management systems or technology – most notably between the organization and outside facilities – leaving default paper processes as the best workaround.
  • Workflows that still require paper documentation, most notably patient check-in/belongings forms, records requiring signatures, consent forms and more.
  • Prescriptions and pharmacy records, the majority of which are still paper-based. For example, only 10 percent of responding hospitals indicated that prescriptions were electronic.
  • Faxes: 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.


The paper challenge – and opportunity

So what can these organizations do to reduce their reliance on excessive printing and best position themselves to reap the benefits this can provide?

The idea of going paperless in healthcare means more than just limiting how much printing occurs within the hospital. It also means implementing digital document imaging workflows and technologies that enable quick – almost immediate – conversion of patient information from paper-based records to digital format for use in an EHR or an enterprise content management (ECM) system.

To support these types of accelerated capture workflows, hospitals, clinics and healthcare organizations must be able to reliably and securely scan documents directly into the EHR or ECM directly at the point of care. There are tools available for facilities to implement these changes, such as print capture software and mobile document imaging solutions. Yet many aren’t ready for this yet, and as a result, may be inadvertently putting themselves at a disadvantage.

Consider that in most hospitals today, incoming paper records are collected from various places across the facility and then brought to a centralized scanning operation, where they are processed and eventually uploaded to the EHR or other repository.

While this approach works well to archive paper-based records, it can result in significant delays from the time documents are received to when they become available in the EHR. This means the most current patient information is not available to physicians and clinical teams, which can have an adverse effect on the quality of care being delivered to patients. This can be remedied with document imaging and workflow management software, making sure medical records are always up to date.


The technology advantage

Now, the right technology, such as Nuance Healthcare Document Management Solutions can help you control workflows and enhance security when exchanging patient information – all to increase efficiency, reduce costs and ease your team’s paper pains.

For example, a comprehensive technology approach – comprised of print management, document capture and workflow solutions, PDF, mobile capture and more – can help healthcare organizations improve the way they:

  • Reduce print volumes as well as the number of printers and devices that must be managed.
  • Capture incoming patient healthcare records (PHI) such as admission and registration forms, patient forms, consent forms and more.
  • Create, convert, edit and secure critical documents with PDF software.
  • Manage PHI documents and integrate them into their EHR system.
  • Protect confidential information by encrypting data, securing mobile devices and MFPs and restricting access and use of MFPs.
  • Deliver PHI documents with better ways to print or share information such as discharge instructions, test results, prescriptions and more.

To learn more, visit Nuance in booth #2546 at HIMSS 2017 (February 19-23, Orlando, FL) to see how our solutions are helping leading healthcare organizations reduce printing, improve security and better protect PHI data.

Boston Children’s Hospital success story

Download this Nuance success story to see how Boston Children’s Hospital reduced its time and cost for record processing and improved the quality of patient care.


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Chris Click

About Chris Click

Chris Click is the Sr. Healthcare Solutions Marketing Manager for Nuance’s Document Imaging division where he is responsible for driving the world-wide print and capture marketing strategy for the division’s healthcare solutions. Prior to his current role, Chris worked as the Nuance Healthcare Division solutions marketing director and previously headed up sales and marketing at Client Outlook Inc. a provider of healthcare enterprise imaging applications sold through a global partner network. Chris graduated with B.S. in Computer Science from Dallas Baptist University.