Accenture projects that the global EHR/EMR market will reach $22.3 billion in 2015. The United States is currently the largest EMR market by far with a projected annual growth rate of 7.1 percent, totaling $9.3 billion by the end of 2015. Paper processes are still driving medical practice, especially faxed documents with insurance information or consent forms that require signed authorization. However, federal meaningful use guidelines are driving demand for paperless processes to support digital medical records and that means more document imaging sales.
Increasing Demand for EMR/EMR
The need for electronic medical records spans a wide range of health care providers: hospitals, group physician practices, individual physician practices, drug manufacturers, pharmacies, health insurance providers, dentists, optometrists, assisting living facilities, and more. The combination of health regulations governing patient records (especially HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and changes to medical insurance procedures following passage of passage of the Affordable Care Act are generating more paper that needs to be converted to digital documents. For example, for many medical practices the most efficient way to handle insurance paperwork or medical information is still fax, and paper processes still require document imaging to convert them to digital records that comply with regulations.
And there are other motivating factors that are promoting document imaging for healthcare. According to a study by the Medical Records Institute, driving factors for document imaging include improving workflow efficiency (89.3%), improving the quality of care (85%), sharing patient records (81.1%), reducing medical errors (76.1%), sharing patient records remotely (67.9%), and improving clinical documentation for patient billing (67.1%).
Improving Physician Practice Management
Creating a paperless practice saves doctors time and money. Any medical practice measures its revenue by efficiency; the more patients they can treat, the more revenue. Any initiative that streamlines operations or improves efficiency will mean more revenue, and managing patient records electronically is one of the most cost-intensive aspects of any practice.
Consider the following figures from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons on the cost of chart management: $5 to pull a chart, $3 to create a chart, $1.75 per square foot for chart storage, $8 to replace a lost chart, plus cost of two full-time employees to manage records. EMR eliminates most of those costs.
Digitizing a medical practice requires an initial investment in network technology, data storage, servers, workstations, printer, and document imaging systems. However, the cost-benefit ratio of using more technology to reduce operating expenses is proven, so for medical offices it’s just a matter of finding the right technical resource to do the job.
Mobile Computing and Records Access
The advent of wireless technology also is improving medical practice in physicians’ offices and hospitals. Now doctors no longer have to carry paper charts on rounds to review patient records. With EHR/EMR detailed medical information is available from data stores using iPads or handheld devices. Using wireless devices not only makes records access easier but it streamlines data entry, making sure that patient records are immediately up to date for improved patient care and more efficient billing.
In addition to more demand for document imaging systems to digitize medical records, the adoption of mobile devices also means more secure wireless technology for medical offices and hospitals.
Data Warehousing and CRM
Medical practices are adopting data warehouse and CRM systems to manage patient records. Using a centralized data warehouse not only promotes consistent record-keeping but it facilitates regulatory compliance.
Data warehouses not only give physicians easy access to patient medical records, they provide an overview of the practice operations as well. Using centralized record-keeping with the help of document imaging to convert paper records provides a consolidated view of treatment patterns, prescriptions, insurance payments, and other aspects of the medical practice.
Demand for interoperability with different platforms and data access by various stakeholders is making cloud data storage and cloud computing resources more popular for EHR/EMR. The cloud offers a number of advantages for physicians, such as:
- Less expense than on-site data storage;
- Fewer technical staff are required;
- Support for a variety of digital technologies such as medical imaging; and
- Easier to securely share medical records.
In many ways, document imaging is the first step in a larger initiative to digitize the entire medical practice, turning paperwork into intelligence that improves the quality of patient care as well as the efficiency of the medical practice. Paper will be part of medical care for the foreseeable future. If you can demonstrate how doctors’ offices and care facilities can cost-effectively eliminate paper with document imaging, you have opened the door to a deeper and more valuable customer engagement.