Hospitals, clinics, and private practices must manage an abundance of medical records and billing information each day. Physicians are required to retain patient medical records and recordings, including deceased patients, for a minimum of 10 years from the date of the patient’s last visit. Hospitals and clinics have similar policies to abide by. Overtime, this amounts to a lot of records and even more paper!
So why should healthcare businesses bother implementing a document management system? Below are 10 reasons why it’s a good idea to switch out paper-based processes to electronic form.
1. Easy to implement and manage
The process of a DMS is simple: Paper documents are generated or come into the office, clinic or hospital, and are scanned into the system. Each scanned document is indexed and attached to either an existing electronic patient record or a new one can be created.
2. Increased productivity
With a DMS, you can reduce the time to access patient files by simply keying in a search term. Each document that is converted to electronic form is given a unique identifier (usually an index number) and can be searched for through various search terms. Physicians and administrators can search a patient’s name and retrieve their medical record in mere seconds, leaving them more time to spend on value-added activities.
3. Eliminates human error
Mistakes are unavoidable when dealing with vast amounts of paper documents. Too much paper causes clutter, and clutter increases the occurrence of lost or misplaced files and pertinent documents. Therefore, a Document Management System aids in reducing adverse drug events, such as improper dosage of medications. If files or documents are misplaced, physicians are not able to know what medications a patient may have adverse reactions to. This increases patient safety and protects physicians from potential regulatory and legal sanctions.
4. Reduces costs
There are many cost-saving benefits of a DMS:
- Reduce the cost of physical storage space – A hospital, multi-physician, or high volume clinic can spend large amounts of money each year on storage for patient files. In addition to the cost of the physical storage, most medical storage facilities charge a fee every time an employee handles a document. This means there is a charge for retrieval of the required document, delivery of the document and yet another charge for the document’s return to the storage facility. This process can often take several days to complete and physicians may be forced to see patients without their full medical record on hand (this is where the earlier point of human error comes in).
- Reduce the cost of paper – photocopying, faxing, printing, etc.
- Reduce the need for additional staff – Extremely busy offices, like those of high-demand specialists in particular, staff more office administrators in order to deal with the large amounts of paper work coming into and generated by the office. A DMS can reduce the needs for extra staff, in turn, reducing operation costs.
- Document management systems are relatively inexpensive compared to that of more sophisticated EMR systems. A document management system can be used as a transitional or alternative system to an EMR for physicians who are not ready to dive into an expensive, more sophisticated system, or for those who don’t feel they need the level of sophistication an EMR provides.
5. Improves patient care and satisfaction
Converting paper documents to electronic forms gives physicians and administrators more time to devote to patient care and value-added activities. Less search and faster retrieval times results in more time tending to patient needs. This, in turn, increases patient satisfaction.
6. Increases security through audit trails
An audit trail shows the date, time and username for each activity that takes place within a record. This allows administrators to monitor record activity and ensure security and compliance. A DMS can also be equipped with “rights management” which allows administrators to input who can do what with each document. This ensures that the proper business practices are followed and that content is properly captured, stored, managed, and disposed of at the appropriate and legal time in its lifecycle.
7. Maintains regulatory compliance
Security control is a critical regulatory requirement. PIPEDA and HIPA mandate privacy and security of protected health information. A Document Management System offers seamless conversion of paper documents into electronic files to control information access and increase confidentiality. Security features, disaster recovery and enhanced auditing ensure regulatory compliance.
8. Easily integrates with existing systems
A DMS can be easily integrated into most office systems. This means that doctors and administrators don’t need to spend valuable time on training for a new system.
9. Reduces the risk of damage
Storing paper documents and patient medical records on-site can be risky business. Documents can be destroyed by fire, flood, and natural disasters such as severe storms.
10. Enhances collaboration
Documents can be retrieved and modified by a user while access is denied to others while that particular document is being used. This reduces duplicates and old versions of content to be kept in the system. Collaboration features can also allow multiple users to view and alter a document at the same time. Whether or not a document is available to only one user or many users at the same time will be specified by the administrator, depending on office needs.
Given all of these reasons, it makes sense for doctors of private practice, health clinics, and hospitals to start implementing a document management system to manage their medical records. And if those 10 benefits aren’t reason enough, here’s a bonus: Document management systems are environmentally friendly. By reducing the use of paper, medical offices can do their part to help save our forests and those animals that depend on them for survival. Just one more reason why switching to a DMS system makes good sense!