Top 5 benefits of a document management system in healthcare

In the United States, administrative costs for hospitals and healthcare clinics account for more than 25 percent of total expenditures.

A large portion of this spending stems from paperwork associated with records, billing, coding and insurance. Each additional visit adds to the volume. What's more, medical facilities are required to maintain all records for a minimum of 10 years after a patient's final visit.

The Affordable Care Act adds an additional layer of complexity as healthcare centers try to incorporate new rules and players into their ever-growing networks.

Digitizing patient records and adopting a document management system has a number of advantages over traditional paper-based solutions. Below are five of the most important benefits that this strategy offers:

1. Cost savings

The most obvious benefit of document management is cost. Facilities that switch their record keeping systems are able to dramatically cut their spending in a number of ways:

- Reduced materials and equipment. With electronic record keeping, your facility can buy less paper and fewer printers, photocopiers, fax machines and ink cartridges (which carry some of the highest hidden costs of all).

- Reduced storage needs. Some facilities must devote entire floors to record keeping. This means less space for value-adding services like medical treatment. By digitizing your records, you can store all of your patient files using on-site servers that require minimal space. Some healthcare facilities use cloud storage solutions that take zero room.

- Fewer staffing costs. With a well-designed document management system, you don't need as many employees to log or retrieve physical records. All relevant information becomes securely accessible electronically.

- Fewer retrieval fees. Some filing services charge a fee every time you request or return a physical record. Digitizing your platform allows you to search your facility's own records without going through a middleman.

2. Greater security and compliance

Paper-based documents can become lost or damaged because of mold, fires, flooding or other types of natural disasters and accidents. By contrast, electronic files benefit from redundant storage features and disaster recovery solutions. Even if one server fails, digital backups of every document exist. Therefore, your patients' information is more secure.

However, document management systems offer another level of protection: Every file in your system benefits from a detailed chain of custody in which employee names and timestamps are automatically assigned at every stage of processing.

You can further protect sensitive patient data by assigning access rights for individual files. For example:

- The billing department only needs to see information relevant to insurance and payments.

- Medical providers can access pertinent healthcare details, but they can't see insurance information.

Facilities that employ electronic document management have an easier time complying with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

3. Faster processing and fewer errors

Paper-based records are physical documents that must be hand-carried from archives to the appropriate department. It's not unusual for some record requests to take hours — even days.

Retrieving records through a digitized document management system takes a matter of seconds.

Better still, multiple departments can access the same record simultaneously without having to photocopy any files. If your document management system allows for file segmentation, the billing department can update payment information at the same time that healthcare employees update medical data.

Some platforms even offer real-time collaboration. Users can make concurrent changes to the same record without creating incompatible edits. Versioning history ensures that every record reflects the most recent and accurate information.

This results in fewer errors and redundancies.

4. Happier and healthier patients

Implementing a document management system offers the above advantages — all of which directly benefit the healthcare facility. Reductions in costs, processing times, errors and privacy leaks can make your medical center more streamlined and productive.

Though when you distill these benefits into their essence, an additional advantage emerges: The less time and money spent on administrative paperwork, the more resources your staff can devote to services that truly add value — namely providing superior healthcare.

As a result, you have happier and healthier patients.

5. One final advantage of electronic document management

Switching your paper records to a digital platform may seem like a daunting task, and many healthcare facilities delay transitioning because they believe the process will be difficult.

However, implementing an electronic document management system is a cost-effective strategy that offers immediate and cumulative benefits. This means you can complete the transition in manageable stages. Start with a small batch of records, and use the subsequent savings to help finance the next stage.

Done in this way, you'll gain productivity and efficiency, allowing your facility to reap ever-increasing gains as you move forward with implementation.

Denny Hammack is the President of FileSolve. They are an industry-leading supplier of document management solutions & services. FileSolve has file storage operation centers in Charlotte, Orlando and Roanoke as well as their online site, FileSolve.com.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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