1 — Access to external documents

It’s 3 a.m. and you’re in the emergency room. But you can’t talk. Remember all of those records you brought with you last time you were at the hospital for outpatient surgery? Lab work, radiology report, physician notes…all in paper. Where did those records go? With an ECM integrated with the hospital’s Electronic Medical Record, your physician doesn’t just have the hospital’s notes from your previous visit, but all of that external documentation was scanned in and is now a click away in the EMR interface where the clinician can now see a more complete history prior to providing treatment.

2 — Access to medical records in the hospital

Unfortunately, after visiting the ER, you are admitted. Even in heavily automated hospitals, you will often find that Emergency Department charts are still kept on paper. However, that paper ED chart may not always ride with you to your room. Scanning that chart in to the hospital’s ECM system linked to the EMR allows any clinician with security rights to see your chart info in the EMR to access your info. So whether you end up on a regular floor, ICU, Radiology or Lab, you can rest in that morphine-induced happy place knowing that your caregivers can access all of your information since entering the hospital.

3 — Always on 

In today’s growing world of outpatient services, hospitals and their affiliates are often sharing chart info between facilities. The good news is that AnyTown Hospital may in fact be the keeper of all of your records because you go to AnyTown physicians, AnyTown Radiology and AnyTown Orthopedics. Unfortunately, as you arrive at the ER, your paper chart info hasn’t come back from AnyTown Outpatient Surgery Center, and your file is ‘out’. With ECM, your file never moves. No faxing. No couriers. One file – online. Available to all of AnyTown’s caregivers through their EMR interface.

4 — Diagnostic data

While healthcare providers are adopting scanning technologies in rapid numbers, they are only scratching the surface of ECM capabilities. Upper tier Content Management products are truly object repositories – not just electronic file cabinets for scanned paper. So content such as audio files and video files could be dictation recordings and surgery videos available through your ECM. Digital photos for things like wound care, dermatology or burn units can all be easily imported in to your ECM.  Forward thinking thought leaders are even beginning to leverage ECM as middleware. Diagnostic info, e.g., EKGs, Fetal Monitors, Holter monitors and more are not integrated with the EMR in most cases. Printed copies of Fetal Monitor strips are often taped to pages in a paper chart. Your history of EKG’s are printed off and kept in paper form and may not be available for reference as you enter the ER suffering from chest pain. With ECM, direct device integrations can be done to electronically receive, store and integrate this data for instant availability directly through the EMR interface.

5 — Patient safety

Clearly, greater availability of information at the physician’s fingertips could be the difference in critical care scenarios. Lawmakers offhandedly cite ‘medical errors’ as the premise for electronic medical records. The term though is in most cases a misnomer labeling physicians as having made errors. Unfortunately, in most cases their ‘error’ was in fact a lack of available information. While EMRs are a step in the right direction, most industry data states that at least 20% of the chart remains in paper form today, leaving physicians and patients alike in a precarious information deficit. With ECM, that paper is scanned and available, integrated through the EMR creating one holistic record.

6 — Privacy

A quick read of the HIPAA regulations are not only a great cure for insomnia, but magnify the vagaries of ‘private information’ in a paper world. While great care is taken in defining rules and regulations around the securing of electronic data, one would argue that the standards as they apply to paper records are a bit more challenging to enforce. Copies, faxes, couriers, outsourced paper storage providers all present potential challenges in enforcing secure access. A well designed ECM security model ensures that only authorized users access your documents; even printing can be controlled. In addition, an audit trail logging every user who accesses any document in your chart – and even any action they perform while viewing it – provides peace of mind that your Personal Health Information is secure.

7 — Release of Information

Whether it’s a move to a new city, a new physician or a new health insurer, you may need your records in portable form. While EMR’s can produce a report for you, paper charts – if immediately accessible may need to be copied, faxed from multiple locations, pulled from offsite storage, etc. Healthcare focused ECM products often contain the ability for the hospital to go through a simple ROI workflow to produce all of the scanned components of your chart along with your EMR report. In fact, some ECM/EMR integrations offer the ability to do that through the EMR as a singular process.

8 — Scalability and Integration 

A number of EMR’s offer document imaging as native functionality. However, scan and store capabilities within an EMR should not be confused with the breadth of functionality a true Enterprise Content Management system can offer. Whether it’s being tied down to strictly scanned content, or in many cases, an architecture reliant on database blobs for the storage of image objects that limit scalability and ultimately hamper performance, the functionality chasm is severe. Imagine yourself in the bed in the ER as your clinician waits for your chart’s scanned images to load for minutes in some cases. Top tier ECM products have been scaling to billions of images and terabytes of data in numerous vertical markets for decades now. So, why might a hospital buy the EMR’s document imaging functionality? Because it’s ‘integrated’. However, whether it’s HL7, Web Services, API’s, or screen scrape technologies, peeling back the layers of an EMR’s ‘integrated scanning’ will often yield little more or even a weaker integration than many ECM’s can provide out of the box.

Original Article


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