The first step to an Electronic Health Record (EHR)
The future is here!
Government mandates and the need for greater business optimization have finally brought about the next major break-through in healthcare -- the era of the electronic health record (EHR) has arrived. Now hospitals and group practices all across the nation are pulling out their archived patient folders and feeding them into scanners at unprecedented volumes every day. And this is only the beginning.
In today’s high-tech environment, choosing a device capable of reliably introducing patient documents into Health Information Systems (HIS) or practice management software has a variety of specific requirements. And successfully navigating these choices depends upon adopting a strategy that is easy to execute and will not interfere with providing quality care.
Scanners in every department
Whether it is at the admissions desk, on a hospital floor, or in the back-office managing claims or accounts payable, scanners are a vital part of every department.
Today, healthcare providers are not simply converting their archives to save space -- they’re EMRs and HIEs. When loaded with Inofile software, it has the power to become much more, offering two-way, standards-based exchange of information that is more universal and secure than fax and sidesteps the cost and complexity typically associated with sophisticated technology.
Admission & Registration
At the admissions desk, cost is one of the primary decision-making factors. That is why an affordable scanner that can still manage the diversity of documents in the registration process is the best fit for this part of the hospital or practice. Providing a simple and convenient means of scanning both hard cards (such as I.D.s or Insurance Cards) and paper documents (registration and waiver forms) is a critical part of building an electronic record.
However, because most of this scanning is performed a few documents at a time, a scanner with a large document tray and high-volume output is not required.Instead, a smaller desktop scanner capable of 30 pages per minute with a paper tray that accommodates the same number of pages is more appropriate. The convenience of an automatic document feeder (ADF), capable of page separation and multi-feed detection to avoid misfeeds, is also recommended.
Special Consideration: While choosing an affordable desktop scanner provides a smaller foot-print and assumes less real estate at the front desk, it also makes it easier for “unauthorized removal” as well. Choosing a model that features a locking mechanism is the best way to ensure that the device remains on the desk where it belongs.
Claims and accounts payable represent some of the largest volumes of paper in most healthcare organizations. The sheer administrative burden of managing these documents is enough to drive up costs, but more importantly the information contained on those pieces of paper is the lifeblood of your hospital. Business transactions are a necessary part of providing care. And finding a way to contend with both the higher volumes, and the need for increased processing speed, requires a careful balance of cost efficiency and performance.
Back office scanners require a heavier duty cycle and therefore place greater demand on both the hardware and its users. Choosing a machine that is both fast and durable is advised. Cautionary Note: many organizations have suffered the pitfall of saving on up-front costs by purchasing a scanner that was less expensive, but paid for it in the end when demand out-paced the scanner’s duty cycle. Back office paper volumes are not to be underestimated, and the speed at which these transactions can be processed is dependent on the rated speed of the scanner.
In this instance, an ADF is an absolute necessity, and the convenience of a device that offers a variety of operating positions is preferred. Some scanners can even accommodate the specific ergonomic needs of both left- and right-handed operators -- all in the interest of greater optimization and enhanced productivity.
The task of digitizing archived health records is an ominous one. But when approached in phases, and with the proper workflow, the gains of universal access to information will outweigh the pain of managing patient documents in paper folders -- both for the short-term, and in the long run.Healthcare providers with the most success in implementing their electronic records strategy apply a tiered approach:
1) Archived health records for the MOST RECENT patients are pulled for scanning at the time of pre-registration or registration.
2) Archived health records for patients in ALPHABETICAL ORDER are pulled for scanning in batches on an ongoing basis; unless the patient falls into the Tier I Category.
Due to the heavy workload of medical record scanning, a production-level device is recommended. Volumes can reach up to 100 pages per minute, and batches can number in the hundreds of pages, so a large capacity tray and high-output are base-line standards. Hospital staff members need to be able to convert archived documents into digital images as quickly and easily as possible in order to avoid interfering with care or adding undue costs. This department demands the greatest cost-efficiency for the highest degree of productivity available.
Only quality-engineered devices will stand up to the test of more than 200,000 images per day.Important: Be sure to consult your Electronic Health Record software provider -- selecting a scanner that has been certified to work with your organization’s EHR software platform is the only way to guarantee 100% integration of all features and functionally, both on the software and the hardware side of the solution.
Choosing a vendor
With the surge of interest in EHR technology, and the ever-increasing burden of efficiently managing patient information and the paper that goes along with it, there are sure to be many entrants into the healthcare imaging market whose ambitions are purely opportunistic.
When selecting a scanner, it is always best to choose a product from a technology company with a track record of success and a history of quality engineering designed specifically for the healthcare industry. Choosing a scanner manufacturer that provides the greatest breadth of model options that span across all of the various departments in your organization makes them easier to source and can often earn volume discounts.
And, as with all electronic devices, products backed by factory warranties and comprehensive service and maintenance plans are good signs of a healthy hardware provider.
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