Article Date: 9/1/2009

Document Management
tech time

Document Management

Is this one feature the key to success with electronic health records?

SCOT MORRIS, O.D. , F.A.A.O.

If you're practice is like most paper-using offices, you spend an inordinate amount of time searching for charts, referral letters or insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs). And, searching through multiple charts racks, cabinets and desks is costing you a fortune in operational inefficiency.

Now, look in your chart room, and remember that each physical chart in your office is costing you an estimated $3.71. And, you can't even pull information from that media unless you spend more time, energy and money to find it — one file at a time.

When you consider (and perhaps even quantify) how much paper you and your staff end up handling, searching for, filing, reading, re-handling and re-filing, you realize: “Wow, that paper is really expensive, and I have a lot of it.”

A fear of paper

The single largest issue with most practices converting to electronic health records (EHR) is the fear of what to do with all that paper. I'm not just speaking of patient charts, but all your paper including incoming faxes, mail, invoices, lab bills, patient referral letters, EOBs, bank statements, credit card statements, sticky notes, etc. Simply put, it's not possible to go paperless without a document management system. More importantly, if you don't change your office's paradigm, your staff (and you) will keep using the paper charts, making your “new” EHR system all but useless.

Time for a conversion

So, how do you handle all this paper? When it comes to the decades of paper charts that are piled around your office, you can still access all the information imprisoned within those pages when you convert the paper in an EHR system.

A variety of ways exist to convert your paper-based medical charts to electronic media (See “The Path to a Paperless Practice,” OM, November 2008 issue, or visit www.optometric.com/article.aspx?article=102282). (Consider the benefits of converting the reams of paper that come into your office from outside sources.)

Document management is a tool that businesses have been using for years to reduce operating costs and increase productivity in the office. These systems categorize documents and place them on the necessary fields in your software so you and your staff can search, access, analyze, store and utilize them more efficiently than before to yield greater information.

And, the cost is as little as a couple hundred dollars a month to transfer all your paper into an electronic media using optical recognition tools.

Using industry leader document management solutions creates operational savings by reducing AR processing costs and other associated operational workflow inefficiencies. This far exceeds the aforementioned low monthly costs.

Untrap files and achieve

When critical information is trapped in files and on paper, productivity, performance and profits are dramatically affected, impairing a business's ability to achieve its goals. To maintain a competitive edge, your business must have efficient document management processes that can capture, archive, search and retrieve information from a variety of sources across your business.

Stay tuned to this column, as I'll be covering EHR implementation in the coming months. By being educated of the technological changes in medicine, you'll thrive in your own practice. OM


DR. MORRIS IS THE DIRECTOR OF EYE CONSULTANTS OF COLORADO, LLC, AND MORRIS EDUCATION & CONSULTING ASSOCIATES. E-MAIL HIM AT SMORRIS@EYECONSULTANTSOFCO.COM.

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2009