Historically, the healthcare industry has always utilized a lot of paper, but until a few years ago, it was not a big market for document imaging solutions. That’s because IT departments at healthcare providers would typically train their focus on upgrading medical devices and equipment, with little time or resources left over for document management. That started to change when the U.S. federal government approved the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996. HIPAA requires that healthcare organizations control access to their patient records; an electronic document management system with images of records replacing paper represents one way to better do this.
Then in 2009, as part of an economic stimulus program, the U.S. government earmarked $19.2 billion to be used toward encouraging adoption of electronic healthcare records (EHR) by physicians and healthcare facilities. Coupled with increasing pressure from health insurance companies related to reimbursements (which can be combatted with better records management), the result has been a boon in the adoption of document imaging in the healthcare market in recent years.
According to BBC Research, the market for clinical health IT will continue to grow faster than the economy. BBC says this growth will be driven by adoption of EHR, which accounts for 61.5 percent of clinical health IT sales.
Clearly, there are more opportunities for document imaging in healthcare than ever before. Let’s take a look at some of hot areas and how they are evolving:
EHR - EHR adoption has skyrocketed, with hospital adoption growing from less than 10 percent in 2008 to 75 percent in 2014. For physicians, the rate is a bit lower, but the stimulus package has certainly been effective. The ultimate goal of an EHR system is to eliminate paper altogether, but there are still plenty of requirements for scanning documents coming in from outside organizations, as well as digitizing older patient records. And just because a practice has EHR doesn’t mean it has optimized its use of document imaging to complement it. The American Hospital Association lists more than 5,000 hospitals in the U.S. and 750,000 practicing physicians, so there is plenty of opportunity out there.
Billing - Document imaging can be used to reduce the lag between discharge to billing by several days. Digitizing paper patient charts enables the paperwork to be entered more quickly into an electronic workflow. Digitized records also enable more efficient correspondence with the insurance companies that typically pay medical bills.
Admissions - Imaging can speed up the admissions process through the capture of ID and registration forms. Instead of key-entering information, admissions personnel can scan the cards and forms and automated data entry can be applied on a server—freeing up the admissions personnel to process other patients.
HIPAA compliance - Digitizing patient records enables healthcare providers to better control and track access to records. This should help guard against fines and penalties that could result from HIPAA violations.
General back office functionality - Like any business, a hospital has invoices to pay and HR records to process. Imaging has proved to be a successful tool across industries for improving these processes. A healthcare provider can often leverage the same imaging system it’s using for patient records for general back-office business process improvements.
What’s the Latest?
Document imaging in healthcare has come a long way in a few years, but it also continues to advance forward. One of the latest trends is the creation of unified healthcare records that enable document images and medical images to be accessed through the same interface.
Also, remember that physicians and hospitals aren’t the only potential customers in the healthcare market. Dentists, pharmacies, clinics, nursing homes, home health service providers, physical therapists, and more all have common requirements around patient records and billing. And as insurance companies start to buy up hospitals, claims processing is another important application to consider.