Managing paper files costs providers valuable staff resources and time in terms of the expense of diminished efficiency and productivity. Staff must chase paper files around the office, and spend considerable time ensuring they are properly filed. And if a file goes missing? Hunting down that record could gobble up inordinate amounts of time, let alone leave a provider sweating out serious concerns over a possible privacy breach.
“When you have a company that supplies a consumer-direct product, you have multiple departments that are involved in the process that aren’t in walking distance to each other,” says Larry Edelson, director of new business development and strategic planning at American Diabetes Wholesale in Pompano Beach, Fla. “When the flow of orders is moving document throughout the day, this information needs to be viewed by each of the different departments.”
As a result, many providers are considering document imaging systems to save employees volumes of time, ensure accurate record keeping, and protect patient privacy. With them, employees can quickly scan paper forms in order to update patient records, access key records on the fly, and more easily process billing. Here are some items to consider if you wish to implement a document imaging system:
Understand the capabilities. Before you dive in, make sure you understand the various capabilities of document imaging systems so that you can review how different systems can benefit your business. Some key capabilities to consider:
- Flexible scanning options and the capacity to scan batches of unsorted paperwork. The system should be able to sort them as they are scanned.
- Automatic filing of documents so that data from forms is entered into electronic records.
- Task automation features that let staff shave time off frequently repeated recording-keeping tasks.
- Document retrieval that is lighting fast and can be performed based on various search criteria.
- Features that increase manual document filing efficiency in instances where the system is unable to scan poorly filled out or degraded paperwork.
- Tools to let staff stamp, edit, redact, highlight and annotate electronic records.
- The ability to store very large documents, such as manuals, licensing information, regulations, contracts, or handbooks.
- Security features that provider various levels of read and write access that should include audit trails that show who has been accessing patient records in order to ensure HIPAA compliance.
Security is a doubly important consideration, Edelson says, because providers must also consider it from a document retrieval perspective. “Everything here is backed up off-site so that we know we could recover no matter what happens,” he says.
Work with your vendor. If you have an HME business management software system in place, work with your existing vendor to see if it offers a document imaging system, or works with a third-party in order to provide a seamless integration. In American Diabetes Wholesale’s case, it already had an HME system in place from its vendor, Noble House, which was able to supply document imaging tools that could be brought online with a minimum of complexity.
Sell the staff on the system. The provider can smooth implementation by demonstrating the benefits of document imaging to staff. This can help eliminate any possible “corporate culture shock” some staff might feel. When staff see how much easier their workflow becomes using document imaging, the idea becomes and easy sell. “Once everybody saw how simple it was, they were on-board,” Edelson says. “We had no outliers on this one… Everybody bought in immediately.”
Create an implementation team. Enlist key players from various segments of the business to help shape the implementation and adaptation of the new system by each group. This team can identify the various processes the system should help automate, ensure the system meets their departments’ needs, and help set an implementation timetable.
Form redesign and testing. Internal forms used by the provider might have to be redesigned in order to optimize the document imaging system. Forms might need to be cleaned of shading or images that could stymie smooth scanning. Each department must test the system multiple times, carrying out the various tasks using the system they will need to do. This will ensure everything is working smoothly and efficiently before you go live with the system.
Enlist some extra help. Once the system goes live, consider getting some outside contract help to begin scanning in some of your documents in order to help your staff focus on converting key patient records. For instance, training manuals, contracts, and large reference documents could be scanned by part-time help, while full-time staff concentrates on the top priority of scanning patient files.
Points to take away:
- Managing paper files consumes valuable staff time and efficiency. Document imaging can help regain that lost time.
- Understand the various capabilities document imaging offers when looking at systems.
- Create an implementation team that ensures the document imaging system will address the needs of each department.
- Sell your staff on the benefits of the system to ensure a smooth changeover when it goes live.
- Ensure all your internal forms are optimized to help the imaging system quickly scan documents.