By Christina Robbins, Digitech Systems
As of 2016, more than 90 percent of hospitals and 60 percent of physician offices were using Electronic Health Records (EHR) in compliance with federal guidelines.1 Yet, healthcare remains a strong vertical for digital transformation technologies such as imaging, information management and workflow. How will you spot opportunities?
Consider the three Cs of modern healthcare: costs, care, and customers. In their newest report on the healthcare market for 2018, Deloitte identifies these three areas as critical priorities for healthcare stakeholders. To thrive in today’s environment, explains Deloitte, providers should be concerned with “investing in exponential technologies to reduce costs, increase access and improve care.” 2 Let’s consider how each of these three priorities represents a digital transformation opportunity.
Reduce business costs
In healthcare, digital transformation has been largely driven by federal regulations such as HIPAA and the meaningful use requirements of ARRA over the last two decades. However, digitizing medical records is only part of the story for hospitals and providers. Tremendous benefits, including reduced costs, await organizations who also look to business processes like accounts payable (AP), claims processing and human resources (HR) as potential areas for process automation and electronic workflow. Not only can providers improve control of sensitive information and become more efficient, they can reduce their business costs by digitizing records across their organizations.
In the struggle to manage costs, digitizing business processes, like AP, HR and claims processing, offers significant rewards.
Business Process Efficiency Nets Big Savings for Advocate Healthcare
One of the largest medical care providers in the Midwest is avoiding about $24 million in salaries due to an incredibly efficient benefits management team. Advocate Healthcare serves more than 100,000 in-patients and about 2,000,000 out-patients annually at more than 450 sites and 12 hospitals in Illinois. Having grown through mergers and acquisitions, managing retirement benefits for the company’s 35,000 employees and 15,000 retirees was complex. The wide variety of available plans, combined with the need for exact accuracy meant a calculation of benefits request took 8-10 weeks to process.
Now that retirement plans are digitized and securely available in the cloud, and the flow of information through the benefits specialists, actuaries, and records keepers has been automated, answering questions takes less than half the time. The department has been able to service all 55,000 individuals with only 4.5 staff — a tiny team when compared to the 1:100 ratio more common among HR departments. “This has dramatically simplified the entire process,” explains Susan Marseille, benefits specialist. “Within a few minutes, I can get people the information they need, and I can securely access it from anywhere. It’s even improving relationships with other teams, like the actuaries and records staff, because we don’t wait on each other for information anymore.”
Speed Access to Critical Care
In critical and emergency medical care, access to information can save lives, and it’s the second of the three Cs of modern healthcare. Whether an urgent care facility, emergency room or physician’s office, all healthcare providers see patients in crisis. At these times of greatest need, rapid intake is essential, yet it is also extremely important to gather the right information to enable accurate treatment. Healthcare organizations can empower intake staff to securely locate historical patient information in seconds by imaging older, paper-based patient charts and then using keyword searches to locate the information electronically. The result is a more complete picture of the patient’s health history leading to more accurate treatment decisions. Further benefits are available through the use of e-forms to quickly collect patient data during a critical care intake and business process management (BPM) systems to route critical information to the individuals who participate in care decisions.
Digitization of intake processes and historical patient records can speed access to critical care for patients in crisis.
Cloud Enables Faster Critical Care Treatments for Netcare Access
Since 1972, Netcare Access has provided Franklin County, Ohio, with mental health and substance abuse crisis intervention, assessment and referrals. The more than 10,000 patients they see annually arrive 24/7 and many need immediate access to care. Before their digital transformation, incoming patients had to complete a paper intake packet — each time they visited. The records clerks took about 20 minutes, on average, to track down patient files stored on-site, and psychologists had to come on-site to review patient charts and records. The entire process was cumbersome and inefficient for staff, medical personnel and the patients they served.
After converting to electronic records, stored and managed securely in a cloud-based ECM service, Netcare has almost instant access to medical records, and incoming patients only complete information relevant to their visit, rather than an entire intake packet. The process has dramatically improved efficiency. Jocelyn Scott, Director of Medical Records, estimates they’ve regained more than 4,000 hours annually in staff time due to simple, keyword access to electronic information, and they’ve saved at least the value of one full-time employee (approximately $44,100 annually).3 She explains, “Our old paper intake process was difficult for our patients, because they had to complete a paper intake packet each time they visited one of our facilities. Now, they only do paperwork once — on their first visit. After that, we can pull up their records instantly, which allows us to provide better care much more quickly. The information is always there when we need it.”
Improve Customer Service
Thanks to federal initiatives and incentives, most healthcare providers and hospitals have begun to convert medical records systems to digital. However, many did so for only day-forward records, meaning only patient information from the date of implementation to the present is available electronically, while everything older remains in paper patient charts in a medical file room. Unfortunately, this gap between digital and paper can impede patient care, slow responses to customer inquiries, and even cause costly errors in treatment. In a modern healthcare era, where patients increasingly choose providers based on the quality of service they provide, fast and accurate responses to customer questions ensures happy customers and a healthy revenue base.
Digitization of historical records creates alignment and accessibility across an entire patient history — a must for improving customer service in today’s healthcare organizations.
Better Information Saves Lives at Woodstock Hospital
Maintaining about 178 beds to serve the people of Oxford County, Ontario, Canada, Woodstock Hospital recognized the gap created between electronic medical records and older patient charts. “When a patient would come into the emergency room, we would have to take the time to physically find their old records. It was very frustrating for clinical staff to have to wait for information they needed to provide care, especially in the emergency room when decisions need to be made quickly,” explained Kathy Lavell, CFO (and former director of records).
After imaging historical patient records for electronic management, and making them available alongside newer EHR information, the hospital has improved the quality of care they provide. “It is really important to us to be able to provide top-notch patient care. Now, when anyone needs to access a patient’s file they can do so immediately. Improving access to patient records helps us ensure we’re providing the best patient care,” said Lavelle.
Aligning your business with the 3 Cs at the forefront of healthcare technology priorities will enable you to help more customers solve their critical challenges. Digital transformation of business processes will further reduce costs, electronic intake processes speed access to care in crisis situations, and alignment between EHR and older patient records improves customer service. As healthcare spending continues to increase — demand for vendor-furnished health IT products and services by the U.S. federal government alone is expected to approach $6.4 billion by 2021 — the opportunities for digital transformation remain compelling.4
2 Deloitte. (2018). “2018 Global Healthcare Outlook.”
Christina Robbins is marketing manager at Digitech Systems LLC.
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Workflow.