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How Document Imaging Solutions Can Increase ROI in Healthcare

January 28, 2017

Selling document imaging solutions to healthcare providers is a matter of selling better patient care as much as selling return on investment. It may not surprise you that improved care and ROI on document imaging are connected.  It’s not that difficult to justify implementing document imaging solutions as part of an overall enterprise content management (ECM) strategy.

In their latest survey Health IT Outcomes reports that clinical documentation improvement (CDI) made their list of top concerns for 2015 for the first time. More than 27 percent of hospitals, doctor’s offices, healthcare practices, and health IT consultants ranked CDI as their top priority for the coming year. Much of the concern over CDI has to do with the release of the new ICD-10 medical classifications being implemented this year, which affects how specific diagnoses are coded. New digital workflows will need to be implemented to improve the accuracy of clinical documentation to support both clinical diagnoses and insurance claims. There also is a lingering concern about electronic health records (EHR) and HIPAA compliance, especially with increasing adoption of mobile technology to access medical records and the security issues associated with wireless access.

So what has all this got to do with the ROI from document imaging solutions? Paper is still an integral part of healthcare processes and the need to convert paper to digital form to support EHR and electronic medical records (EMR) is more acute than ever.

Coping with the Government Paper Chase

The ROI from document imaging solutions for healthcare is all connected to improving workflow and supporting regulatory compliance.

For example, a study from the American Hospital Association shows that for every hour of patient care there is an associated 30 minutes or more of paperwork. In the case of emergency room (ER) procedures, the ratio is even higher: one hour of paperwork for each hour of patient care. As the AHA study notes, “Complete records and documentation are necessary for patient safety and quality care. They promote coordination, continuity and consistent quality improvement.” However, the report highlights much of this regulatory paperwork detracts from patient care:

  • Medicare patients admitted to the ER have to sign eight different Medicare forms.
  • Every test ordered by a physician requires a separate government form to prove the necessity of the test.
  • Every Medicare patient requires staff to complete a 30-item Medicare Secondary Payer questionnaire
  • Nurses have to complete almost 200 questions as part of the Minimum Data Set (MDS), the patient assessment tool used in skilled nursing facilities that are not used by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) for calculating payment.

These are just a few of the many documentation challenges that physicians and nurses have to deal with to satisfy government regulations. In order to reduce wasted staff time and improve patient care, the workflows to deal with these paper-bound processes have to be improved. Applying document imaging solutions to digitize paper for more efficient workflow processes can be a huge time saver.

Direct and Indirect ROI

When considering the ROI to be gained from document imaging solutions, you have to consider both the direct and indirect returns on investment.

Healthcare facilities get a direct return in tangible ways. Regulatory compliance is one. Being able to digitize and securely archive patient records means the medical practice is compliant with HIPAA privacy and other government regulations.

There also are the gained efficiencies in workflow that can be calculated, such as the saving of time and money sharing medical records for consultations or prescriptions. And the savings in generating and circulating paper, including the time to file and retrieve patient files. Statistics show that nearly 75 percent of staff time dealing with paper processes is spent filing and searching for documents. On average, it costs $20 in labor to file a document, and $120 to find misfiled paperwork.

There also are tangible returns in digitizing paper workflows to handle insurance claims. With the new ICD-10 coding it will be more important than ever to keep close track of patient records for insurance purposes. Using a centralized data repository for EHR and EMR ensures consistency in claims as well as care.

Then there are less tangible forms of ROI. More efficient paperless processes means that physicians, nurses, and administrators are more efficient, which means they have more time to treat more patients. Using document imaging solutions to promote totally paperless workflows means a physician can treat patients with a laptop or tablet computer in hand and have complete access to the patient’s medical history, insurance information, and more, without having to rely on paper files. And prescriptions and clinical instructions entered into the system during an examination are immediately stored in the EHR repository and can be electronically shared with a pharmacist of specialist, as needed.

The ROI from document imaging solutions can be calculated in better care as well as fewer dollars. Consolidating all electronic records means that patients receive faster and more consistent care with fewer errors. In the case of a hospital admission, for example, the primary care physician can securely share the patient’s records so the hospital has a complete medical history including details about allergies and special conditions. This is a much faster and more accurate approach than relying solely on paper admittance forms.

It seems unlikely that the healthcare profession will be able to eliminate paper from their workflow processes any time soon, but minimizing paper pushing by capturing everything in a central digital repository has been proven to streamline operations and improve patient care. It should be relatively easy to make a case for ROI from investing in document imaging solutions.