Originally posted on Nuance What’s Next Feb. 15, 2017

Many hospitals, clinics & healthcare organisations today talk about going paperless.  Yet even advanced hospitals still receive & process high volumes of paper, especially for important printing workflows such as medical records, administrative files, admissions documents, prescriptions & pharmacy information.


Healthcare organisations are committed to paper, at least for the short-term future since studies indicated that print volumes are expected to remain flat for the next 2 years, before beginning to decline.


When you consider that this amount of paper is expensive (both in terms of actual printing costs as well as overall document management processes), hard to track, and poses serious security & compliance risks, you may wonder why so many healthcare organisations continue to rely on paper.


To help answer the question, we’ll take a closer look at the reasons cited in an IDC report. We’ll also offer a few best practises any healthcare organisation can follow now to reduce its reliance on paper to address the challenges posed by manual or paper-based workflows.


Why the Continued Use of Paper?

According to the IDC report, the top reasons hospitals, clinics & healthcare organisations continue to use paper include:

    • Incompatible document management systems or technology – most notably between the organisation & outside facilities – leaving default paper processes as the best workaround.


    • Workflows that still require paper documentation, most notably patient check-in/belongings forms, records requiring signatures, consent forms & more.


    • Prescriptions & pharmacy records, the majority of which are still paper-based. For example, only 10 percent of responding hospitals indicated that prescriptions were electronic.


  • Faxes: Hospitals report that many still receive & send up to 1,000 pages per month by fax. Interestingly, these hospitals report that while faxing may be an antiquated technology, many are behind in implementing new technology & must continue to focus on what works for them.


The Paper Challenge – and Opportunity

So what can these organisations do to reduce their reliance on excessive printing & best position themselves to reap the benefits this can provide?


The idea of going paperless in healthcare means more than just limiting how much printing occurs within the hospital. It also means implementing digital document imaging workflows & technologies that enable quick – almost immediate – conversion of patient information from paper-based records to digital format for use in an EHR or an enterprise content management (ECM) system.


To support these types of accelerated capture workflows, hospitals, clinics & healthcare organisations must be able to reliably & securely scan documents directly into the EHR or ECM directly at the point of care.

There are tools available for facilities to implement these changes, such as print capture software & mobile document imaging solutions. However, many aren’t ready for this yet, and as a result, may be inadvertently putting themselves at a disadvantage.


Consider that in most hospitals today, incoming paper records are collected from various places across the facility & then brought to a centralised scanning operation, where they are processed & eventually uploaded to the EHR or other repository.


While this approach works well to archive paper-based records, it can result in significant delays from the time documents are received to when they become available in the EHR. This means the most current patient information is not available to physicians & clinical teams, which can have an adverse effect on the quality of care being delivered to patients. This can be remedied with document imaging & workflow management software, making sure medical records are always up to date.


The Technology Advantage

The right technology can help you control workflows & enhance security when exchanging patient information – all to increase efficiency, reduce costs & ease your team’s paper pains.


For example, a comprehensive technology approach – comprised of print management, document capture & workflow solutions, PDF, mobile capture & more – can help healthcare organisations improve the way they:

    • Reduce print volumes as well as the number of printers & devices that must be managed.


    • Capture incoming patient healthcare records (PHI) such as admission & registration forms, patient forms, consent forms & more.


    • Create, convert, edit & secure critical documents with PDF software.


    • Manage PHI documents & integrate them into their EHR system.


    • Protect confidential information by encrypting data, securing mobile devices & restricting access & use of MFDs.


  • Deliver PHI documents with better ways to print or share information such as discharge instructions, test results, prescriptions more.

Ricoh can help your healthcare organisation be more efficient. Visit our website to learn more.