As technology continues to evolve, a growing number of healthcare organizations are deciding to go paperless. There are several important reasons why the healthcare industry is increasingly turning to digital record keeping.
1. Improve Accessibility
Continually keeping paper records filed and organized so they are easily accessible can be an overwhelming task. When a staff member needs a file it is important that it can be found quickly and easily. Going through potentially dozens of filing cabinets to look for records is unacceptable in a healthcare facility. Once an organization has gone digital, the problem of accessibility will be virtually eliminated. With a few keystrokes, information for thousands of patients can quickly be found and brought up. When files are digital employees, have the option of accessing them through the cloud or a remote desktop system.
2. Cut Costs
Containing costs is a critical issue for almost every healthcare organization. Several specific ways going paperless can save money for a healthcare facility.
- Employee Costs – The amount of manpower it takes to file and keep paper documents organized can be staggering.
- Office Space – Cabinets and shelves to store paper documents are often expensive and require more space in a building.
- Supply and Machine Expenses – Everything from paper and ink to copy machine maintenance can be avoided when going paperless.
3. Improve Security
Paperwork in a healthcare facility may go through several hands from the time the patient finishes it to the time it’s filed. Many employees in a hospital or healthcare facility sometimes have access to records they shouldn’t see. When an organization goes digital, only those who have previously been given access will have the passwords to access the information. Digital records can be encrypted, making them unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have clearance. When going digital, a healthcare organization may want to consider working with a managed IT service to keep their data organized as well as safe. An IT service can implement a variety of safety mechanisms including malware protection, improved firewalls, and offsite storage.
4. Save Time
Easy accessibility is only one way that going paperless will save time. Going paperless reduces redundant systems that are often time-consuming. With document management software, not only is paper eliminated but information can be downloaded into just one or two databases instead of several. There are several items in a healthcare facility that can be converted to digital files to save time.
- Patient Records – Most facilities will accumulate thousands of patient records. Digital records are much easier to find than searching cabinets and files.
- Human Resource Files – Employee files and records can be digitized as easily as patient records.
- Medical Billing – Electronic invoices can save an organization an incredible amount of time while making billing easier for their patients. Making it easier for patients to pay their bills may also reduce delinquency.
- X-Rays and EKGs – Digital radiography can provide numerous benefits. A few advantages include improved image quality and fewer files to store.
It is recommended to start converting the previous files one group at a time. Once all the files are converted and stored accurately, everything from patient files to x-ray records will be easy to find. This is perhaps one of the biggest time-savers of going digital. Staff can waste an enormous amount of time searching for paper files.
5. Reduce Errors
Human error is one of the primary reasons for mistakes in nearly every industry and organization. Patients filling out paperwork in a healthcare setting are often sick or in a hurry. It is not only patients that can make mistakes when filling out forms. Misplaced or lost files are a huge problem for medical facilities. Keeping stacks of papers and files on a desk is a recipe for confusion and lost items. Inability to read handwriting by both health professionals and patients is another way errors can be made. Finally, when there is only one access point for patient records, there is less chance that mistakes will be made. When a variety of administrative staff, nurses, and physicians each keep copies of their own records, each will likely end up with records that aren’t updated and complete.
6. Remain Patient Focused
The time it takes to fill out, file, and maintain paperwork takes an enormous amount of time from other tasks. From employees who check in and register patients to nurses and doctors, the staff in a healthcare facility will have more time to focus on each individual patient. There are several specific ways a paperless healthcare organization benefits patients.
- Quicker Access to Files – Digital files can easily be transmitted between various departments. This means there is less time wasted when a patient is transferred from one department to another. Physicians will be able to bring up patient files with mobile devices from virtually any location.
- Integrated Healthcare – Many patients will see several doctors and specialists during treatment. A paperless system will make it easier for each healthcare professional to instantly access a patient’s file.
- Safer Radiology – Digital x-rays can dramatically reduce exposure to radiation and works without chemical developers. Physicians can also enhance images on demand. This means there is a greater ability to detect diseases and changes in a patient’s condition.
- Improve Insurance Process – What insurance companies will and will not cover plays a part in what course of treatment a patient will take. Having quick access to this information will help both patients and physicians make informed decisions quickly.
7. Environmentally Friendly
Going paperless is an obvious and effective way to become an environmentally friendly organization. Several direct and indirect ways going paperless can help the environment. Not only does going digital save paper, but it also reduces the number of folders and binders that would be needed to keep all the necessary paper files. The need to dispose of ink cartridges can almost entirely be eliminated. Entire buildings can be designed with smaller offices because of the need for less overall space.
To stay competitive while providing the highest quality of patient care, it is necessary for every healthcare organization to consider going paperless. Even going semi-paperless can provide numerous benefits. Reducing or completely eliminating paper is not just a popular trend. Maintaining a paperless organization, whether it is in the healthcare field or any number of industries, is the future of doing business.
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