Science, always the driver in medicine, has now invaded admin and it has left the doctor’s office feeling a bit naked. But along with the absence of these paper titans comes freedom from clutter and costly maintenance. “Many doctor’s offices are overloaded with files and they have to turn to storage and retrieval companies,” says Richard Ollier, a document management specialist with Modern Office Methods (MOM), a document solutions provider. “While storing documents is relatively inexpensive, retrieval is very costly.”
Plus, physicians can actually find and share information more easily in a transparent digital environment. “Paper-based files are often lost or misfiled. It is not unheard of for a patient file to be in a physician’s brief case,” says Andy Vassallo, senior vice president and managing partner at ACS Healthcare Solutions. “A patient’s file may not be re-filed before they return to the healthcare facility for their next office visit. As a result, physicians see patients an estimated 40% of the time without a completed chart in front of them, which could result in potential errors.”
Document Management Systems (DMS) are replacing the old paper files from patient records to payroll and much of the costs for DMS are easily recuperated from the savings gained by dumping the costlier and less efficient paper system. Still, the new digital systems cost money. These upfront costs may be unwelcome but they are certainly unavoidable as insurance companies and the Obama Stimulus Plan $19B Healthcare Initiatives push for the changeover at breakneck speed.
Some physicians believe they have already made the move, when in truth, they’ve only just begun. “As most physicians' offices have operated on paper for long periods of time, the transition is hampered by not having enough information to make clinical decisions using only the EMR in the beginning,” says John Tempesco, vice president of clinical services Informatics Corporation of America. “This requires the ambulatory practice to continue to pull charts for a significant amount of time prior to relying solely on the new technology and thus significantly reduces adoption and efficiencies gained through implementation.”
What these physicians may not further understand is that EMR is only one part of the larger DMS story. “Unlike an Electronic Medical Record’s System, a DMS can do more than just track patient information,” says Ollier. “It can facilitate electronic transactions, getting information to and from insurance companies faster and reducing outstanding receivables. A DMS also can be used for accounts payable and HR functions at an office.”
In order to bring your office fully up to speed, and thus actually enjoy the cost and time savings the technology presents, weigh your options carefully before you buy a DMS product so you get a proper fit. “As part of our solutions platform, one of the most important criteria for successful physician adoption was to promote intuitive ease of use, and the integrated value of a web-based, zero footprint, secured, Microsoft standards based solutions for document management,” says David J. Dugan, president of Medepresence Holdings.
However, you may find your needs differ so another system may be better for you. That is why it is best to ascertain what your needs specifically are from the outset. Beyond that basic necessity, here are criteria to help you evaluate a DMS product:
1) Ease of Use -- Ease of use can be the #1 factor in successful adoption and gaining maximum benefits from a document management solution. Of key importance is the ability of any non-technical user to easily scan and logically associate documents, radiographs or other high value content to a medical chart.
2) Integration & Content Value -- Check to see how easily the system integrates with your existing systems and with information coming to you from other sources. Is the content presented the content you need most? If not, is it customizable?
3) Convenience / Power of Query Capabilities - Check to see how easy it is to search for specific information and to navigate through the system.
4) Ubiquitous Accessibility & Performance -- Check to see if you can use the system from all your devices, both onsite and off. Then check performance ratings and references.