Start describing any doctor’s office, and it won’t take long to recognize its biggest feature by weight and volume: the paperwork. The desks and cabinets are overflowing with it. Paper records are as essential to modern healthcare as the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians – and arguably have just as much to do with how it is administered.
Healthcare providers should have all of the information required when, where and how they need it. However, generating and managing those records is a complex and often inefficient task. Physicians spend one-sixth of their professional time on paperwork and administrative tasks, according to for a total cost to the healthcare system of $102 billion. In 2015, researchers found that private insurers alone spend $198 billion on billing and insurance-related costs.
“The challenge is twofold: How do you control the sheer volume of paper, and how do you stay compliant?” said Julie Walker, chief marketing officer of document software company PaperCut.
Improving document management practices can save time, improve patient care and help with compliance. Healthcare organizations have a variety of tools and strategies at their disposal that can advance those aims, often with minimal investment or change in workflow. Consider these techniques:
Secure print release: Compliance rules forbid leaving sensitive health information in a printer’s exit tray. But forcing users to journey to a special secure printer, far from their usual workspace, is a sure time-waster. Sophisticated print-release apps can store documents in a secure queue and release them to a printer only when the user authenticates him or herself on the printer. The best and most flexible apps allow the job to be released to any authorized networked printer, which can cut down on wasted intra-office travel trying to find the right machine.
Cut down on paper-handling hardware: Task-specific paper-handling devices, such as dedicated fax machines and scanners, made sense when the best-of-breed solutions were cutting edge. Today, they’re seen as taking up too much space and creating more hassle for technology managers. “Today’s multifunction printers can scan pages far faster than a flatbed, automatically strip out blank pages and manage faxes better than a stand-alone fax machine,” said Stephen Frick, senior business solution consultant with Kyocera Document Solutions America. “Taking a fax machine, scanner and copier off the nurse’s station and replacing them with a single multifunction printer means IT has fewer devices to manage.”
Send personalized emails directly from a document scanner: It’s all too easy to end up with duplicate and triplicate copies of the same document while trying to deliver a better experience to a patient or payer. Many early scan-to-email solutions would appear to come from a mysterious generic address, making the recipient doubt both the content and the security of the attached document. To compensate, professionals often scan a copy to their own inbox and then reattach the document from their personalized account. Today, advanced multifunction printers can personalize documents at the point of scan, reducing wasted time and storage.
Demand interoperability: The past decade has seen a significant and largely successful push to implement electronic record-management solutions in the healthcare space; but now the harder work begins. “The end goal isn’t adoption; it’s interoperability and multidirectional communication,” said Joe Lineberry, vice president of coding operations at healthcare information technology company Change Healthcare. “We see a lot of duplicated effort when healthcare systems won’t talk with each other.”
Connect printing permissions to central identity services: Most organizations have stopped using PIN codes for printing permissions and replaced them with print-specific credentials. However, this newer method isn’t much more secure if there’s not an automated system to revoke credentials in bulk when people leave their jobs. Centralized management of credentials and identity across a wide range of services is more efficient and more certain to remove print rights at the proper time. “The last thing IT is going to remember is to pull somebody’s printing credential after they leave. Make it easier by linking printing rights to Active Directory or a similar service,” Frick said.
Curtail printing rights: If you’re looking for a simple, straightforward way to cut down on the time and resources wasted on printed documents, consider making it harder to start print jobs in the first place. A network policy can block or impede printing based on document type or application. “There are ways to limit the ability to print certain types of documents, like emails, or to force people to click twice instead of once to start a print job,” said PaperCut’s Walker.
Sometimes the easiest way to deal with a piece of paper is to simply keep it blank.
Jason Compton is a writer and reporter with extensive experience in enterprise tech. He is the former executive editor of CRM Magazine.
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