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Electronic Health Records: Can Document Capture Help Save Lives?

5 Jun, 2010 By: Editorial Staff imageSource

Electronic Health Records: Can Document Capture Help Save Lives?

Spotlight: Kofax

“We can no longer afford to put health care reform on
hold,” President Obama told the U.S. Congress and the American people as he
announced his stimulus budget. “Our recovery plan will invest in electronic
health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs,
ensure privacy, and save lives.” Backing up those words, this past February
President Obama signed the Health Information Technology for Economic and
Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as a part of the stimulus package. The act includes
up to $44,000 incentives per physician under Medicare. In order to qualify for
these funds, providers will need to show “meaningful use” of an Electronic
Health Record (EHR).

The United States is not alone in the move to an EHR
system. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service and other healthcare
service providers are turning to electronic patient records to manage costs in
the face of declining funding. Governments worldwide have highlighted the
management of patient records as a key way to increase efficiency, cut
administrative costs and reduce the waiting time for services. Timely access to
accurate information is essential to the delivery of high quality health care.
Further, effective records management protects patient privacy and ensures that
critical information is available when needed. The impetus brought by all these
government initiatives gives the healthcare provider an ideal opportunity to
automate and modernize. Healthcare organizations constantly strive to contain
costs but at same time continue to provide superior medical treatment. Many have
found that document capture software enables them to accomplish both goals.
Document capture can cut medical record processing time, reduce manual
record-keeping, and give caregivers faster access to medical records.

Healthcare is a Document Process

Documents enter the healthcare system in any number of
ways. From the moment a patient enters a facility, document capture is involved.
Insurance and identification cards are routinely recorded at the front desk –
too often using paper copiers, but increasingly via document scanners. Patient charts are accessed, marked
and filed. Doctors write written prescriptions. Diagnostic results are recorded.
Lab requests are made, or specialists consulted. Test results are returned.
Ultimately, bills are issued to insurers. Explanations of Benefits (EOBs) are
sent. Ultimately, payments are received.

Patient care, customer service and profitability invariably
all benefit when these types of documents are captured digitally. A healthcare system is improved when there is advanced
integration between paper and electronic records. Whether simply using a
low-cost scanner in the admissions office, or implementing a high-volume back office document scanning
system to process insurance forms and invoices – there is a place for document
capture throughout the healthcare universe.

Here’s just a partial list of document-rich requirements
that healthcare organizations have to address:

  • Capturing admissions forms, ID and insurance cards
  • Scanning files of patient records
  • Transmitting lab instructions
  • Filing insurance claim (CMS-1500 and UB-92) forms as
    well as EOB forms
  • Processing supplier invoices
  • Meeting FDA, NHS (in the United Kingdom) and other
    regulatory obligations
  • Complying with record retention policies and HIPAA
  • Sharing clinical data by allowing doctors and
    administrators simultaneous access to patient records while controlling
    varying levels of security
  • Including X-rays, EKGs, MRIs, test results and
    supplemental documents with patient records
  • Allowing doctors, when necessary, to access patient
    records from remote locations to prescribe treatment

Perceived Barriers to HER

Despite these demonstrable benefits, many health care
providers are still mired in the manual, resource-heavy world of working with
paper records. What’s slowing the adoption of a true Electronic Health Records
system? According to recent research, funding (or lack thereof) is considered a
major barrier. Despite the cost savings they bring, these systems still require
an initial capital commitment to deploy. The annual “Survey of Electronic
Medical Records Trends and Usage,” conducted by the Medical Records Institute,
cited “anticipated difficulties” in making a switch to an electronic medical
records system, as another obstacle.

For many small practices, dental offices or eye care
providers, these difficulties are more than anticipated, they’re quite real.
Writing for the American Health Information Management Association, Michael
Vigoda, M.D., director of the Center for Informatics at the University of
Miami’s Miller School of Medicine said, “While payers, patient safety groups,
the federal government, and healthcare systems advocate widespread deployment of
electronic health records, physicians have been somewhat reticent. Electronic
records offer the promise of improved quality of care, increased patient safety,
reduced costs, and increased efficiencies, but physicians have been wary.”

In spite of these perceived obstacles, healthcare
professionals at all levels are moving toward electronic patient records.

The collective benefits far outweigh the initial barriers.
As more and more providers and individual departments within a healthcare
facility move to digital, the cost to not participate grows higher. In addition
to the healthcare providers themselves, documents affect many related organizations.
Insurers, regulators and suppliers all have a vested interest in the data locked
within health record files. Increasingly, government health agencies and state human services departments are likewise participating in the benefits
brought by document capture. Insurance claim forms and EOB forms have been some of capture’s earliest targets. The familiar forms from HCFA
(Health Care Financing Administration), now also known as CMS (Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services), have been some of the most commonly scanned
documents. These have helped drive the use of forms processing technology. The labor savings alone
from optical character recognition and data extraction from
these forms are notable.

As individual departments and processes have moved to document capture, the cries for similar improvements in
other areas are getting louder. Technologies enabling EHR can be utilized in
other departments or extended to other processes. For example, when a facility
in a healthcare network comes on board with document capture, both patients and caregivers expect the
same ready-access to document files to be provided across all campuses. A critical mass of participation is now underway. As more
and more providers and their various business partners respond
to the governments’—and patients’—push for electronic records, EHR has become an
expected best practice.

Preparing for EHR

“The first step in preparing for document capture is to
identify the most appropriate partner and vendor,” said Michael Putkovich,
director of health information management for Spectrum Health Hospitals - Grand
Rapids. “If you have worked with a partner in the past, it is often easiest and
most effective to continue with one that knows your organization well,” said
Putkovich. “The technology, however, should be customizable and scalable to meet
your ever-changing organizational needs and requirements.”

Kofax software is already being deployed for these and a
number of similar applications in healthcare settings across the globe. In medical records-keeping, invoice automation and insurance, Kofax software is streamlining a range of document processes. For details on
specific applications, the following end-user case studies are available at www.kofax.com.

A Holistic View of Both Health & Patients’ Records

In the medical community, there is a move toward a holistic
approach to health. This view stresses that well-being requires more than only
focusing on the various components or ailments that affect the body, but to include emotional and
spiritual well-being, diet and exercise as part of a complete approach.
Likewise, there is a corresponding approach to healthcare records. The
healthcare industry has recently been striving for a holistic view of health records. A complete EHR takes this view. Rather
than approaching document capture at the individual department or provider level, or
targeting specific forms types for capture, there is a collective attempt toward
a broader approach. When electronic health records are used consistently across the healthcare spectrum—providers,
insurers, regulators and patients themselves—the benefits become
exponential. In some ways, the birth of social networking sites, as well
as the availability of medical information online is driving the adoption of
truly digital patient records. Today’s patients are much more familiar—and much more willing to accept—having their
records in electronic form. The portability of information fits well with the
lifestyle of the younger generations. “Technology is changing how patients navigate their health
care experience,” reports Susannah Fox, Associate Director of Digital Strategy
for Pew Internet & American Life Project’s health research. “New data shows how
e-patients are using social media to connect to each other and to information.”


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