Visit any association website or pick up any industry journal these days and you’ll find no shortage of commentary about accountable care organizations (ACO), patient-centered medical home (PCMH) and health information exchanges (HIE).
These topics clearly are the “news of the day” and have left more mundane topics—like EMR adoption— in the dust.
But, I believe, this is a mistake. Although many healthcare organizations have made the transition, a significant number continue to struggle with the implementation of EMR technology. We must guard against early adopters getting so far ahead of the rest of the industry that we create disconnects down the line.
The familiar obstacles to EMR have not disappeared…Healthcare organizations remain concerned about cost, for example, as well as the potential detrimental impact on patient- and workflow. Perhaps even more compelling, however, are concerns about integrating an EMR into an enterprise that remains dependent upon paper in countless other operational areas. The continued proliferation of manual, paper-based processes can effectively prevent information from flowing smoothly throughout the hospital or health system.
There are, however, answers to these concerns. Organizations seeking a boost in their EMR adoption efforts are turning more and more to workflow automation and content management solutions. These technologies help hospitals turn operational processes that surround and support the EMR into automated efforts as well. It makes sense, when you think about it: It’s hard to imagine a successful EMR strategy that isn’t grounded in paperless patient registration, clinical and revenue cycle workflows that generate content that is either derived from or driven into the EMR.
As a hospital transitions to an EMR, content management and administrative workflow automation will help ensure data accuracy and ongoing compliance with meaningful use and quality initiatives. By eliminating common manual errors by using automation technology, providers not only save money, but also inject efficiency and safety into their organization. Consider even the demographic information that hospitals need to accurately record during scheduling or admissions: age, gender, race, ethnicity, date of birth and preferred language—data that if processed incorrectly could impact reimbursements, or worse, patient care.
Clinically speaking, content management and workflow automation helps nurses and physicians track and produce forms necessary for an encounter, such as surgical consent forms and checklists, according to parameters designed by the hospital. In turn, completed forms can be captured and stored within a content management system that can later be integrated with an EMR, allowing users to print documents or access reports either within the content management system or directly from the EMR.
Content management and workflow automation software allows hospital staff in any department to enter patient data, sign forms electronically, route them to multiple departments and print the completed document when necessary. And when produced with barcodes, documents scanned into the enterprise document management system can automatically be routed to the correct field in the EMR, helping to complete the vital data population stage of EMR deployment.
Implementing and integrating a hospital EMR isn’t an easy task. It’s disruptive to clinicians rooted in manual, paper-based care delivery. Administration, patient access and other staff also must adjust to new ways of collecting and distributing information. Automated enterprise workflow and content management solutions ease the transition to an EMR and help organizations gain control over their entire document storage lifecycle. Once this paperless foundation is in place, hospitals will be better equipped to thrive in the emerging healthcare environment—replete with ACOs, HIEs and PCMHs—with tools to strengthen management programs, respond to government regulations and ultimately improve revenue.
Shawn Curtiss is Director of Product Management for FormFast, a top-ranked provider of electronic workflow solutions. FormFast serves more than 850 hospitals internationally with easy-to-use software that helps healthcare organizations accelerate their progression from time-consuming manual processes to fully automated workflows.