New Administration Pushes for Digital Health Records

With a new administration in place, a lot has been said and written about computerizing our medical records over the next several years , and to help make this a reality the administration is considering delivering some funding.  Most experts agree that digitizing much of the medical information that is currently maintained on paper will reduce costs and improve patient care.  But simply dropping a computer and a scanner on every physician and administrative staff desk just won’t cut it.

Doctors need to reap the benefits of technology without imposing an undue burden and taking time away from their main responsibilities of providing medical care. Administrative personnel need to be as efficient as possible, and require a solution that can be operated with a few button clicks, allowing them to get their job done quickly.

With that said, a key piece to digitizing information and more effectively managing paper based processes is to use document capture.  Capture solutions not only convert paper into electronic format but can automate most if not all aspects of the capture process including classifying what type of document it is, reading the data off a form, validating the information, and finally delivering it into a content repository and other medical systems. Those elements are important because it saves time and money during the capture step and makes people more effective at their job.  Without an “intelligent” capture solution, users are often left to manually classifying documents, keying data, and hoping they did not accidentally make a mistake along the way.

Another key element to capture in our hospitals and physician offices is the concept of distributed capture. Hospitals and medical groups are often distributed among many buildings and locations. Therefore the need to provide capture at the point of entry is critical so that the information can be processed and delivered into the appropriate systems in near real time making it instantly available to others who can then utilize that information to make informed decisions.

So where can you use this technology? Many medical departments can use capture, including physician practices, inpatient, observation, emergency, ambulatory services, urgent care services, and more.  Forms and processes could include automating the capture of patient registration forms, medical history, encounter forms, insurance cards, release forms, and more.

It all sounds good, so is there anything we need to be concerned about?  Well patient privacy certainly is a concern for consumer groups. There is fear that without adequate safeguards medical information could be misused or inadvertently released. The fears are valid but with proper planning, the right software solutions to manage and secure the content, well documented procedures and processes, we can overcome those fears. 

There will always be those privacy concerns, but there can be an appropriate balance between protecting privacy and being able to deliver high quality care in the most efficient manner. Change is good especially when it reduces costs and makes things more efficient.