Lessons From Rebounding Industries — Opportunities for Growth From COVID-19

One year in to our pandemic-affected world, businesses continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19. From human resources personnel who are trying to figure out what safety practices are needed to give employees peace of mind as they return to offices, to a significant shift toward ongoing remote or hybrid work arrangements among U.S. employees, it’s likely to alter our work world forever.

rising chart with green arrow and man climbing stairs, stable growth

Among the most dramatic challenges has been the need to instantly convert to digital records and electronic processes everywhere possible to facilitate work-from-home. Businesses quickly put stopgap measures in place, but many are now reviewing their initial technology choices to ensure they have robust products that will continue to benefit their company for years to come. Whether it’s digital records, process automation, or electronic forms, businesses need these products and services now more than ever. Where are the opportunities? Consider the following:

Telehealth requires electronic records

Over the last year, many of us have experienced our first telehealth visit with a physician or other healthcare provider. You may not have realized that as an industry hit hard by COVID-19, healthcare is an excellent target for digitization and process automation services. Despite converting to electronic health records (EHR) over the last eight to 10 years, many physicians’ offices have put off converting older, paper-based patient charts because the charts were easy to access in filing rooms attached to their facilities. Yet, historic patient information can be critical in diagnosing current health problems — especially when decisions need to be made quickly in an emergency. As the number of cases being handled via video call has increased, so has the pressure to make this information more accessible when providers work remotely. Digitizing older patient data so it is accessible alongside current EHR information improves efficiency and quality of care now and when healthcare visits return to normal after the pandemic ends.

Ask your healthcare prospects

• Do you need to access historical information stored in paper charts when visiting with patients?

• When participating in telehealth calls, how do you access this historical information?

• Would it be helpful if you could view older patient records alongside current medical information in your EHR?

Improving efficiencies and saving money

Communication is one of the four driving pillars for Woodstock Hospital, which serves the people of Oxford County, Ontario, Canada. Before the pandemic, Woodstock Hospital recognized the disconnect 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).

To facilitate better communication of patient information, the hospital imaged historic patient records for electronic management and made them available alongside newer EHR information, improving the quality of the care they provide. Now, no matter whether they see a patient in-hospital or are providing consultation via telehealth, they’re able to provide the best patient care, and the digitization project returned such significant savings that Nucleus Research selected them as one of the top 10 technology implementations of the year in 2020 for return-on-investment (ROI).

Accounts payable cries out for process automation

All businesses manage financial information, but this area has been very slow to convert to digital records and process automation. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced even the most reluctant accounts payable (AP) teams to move toward digitization to facilitate work from home for employees. Having experienced the advantages of digital transformation for the first time, many AP teams are now looking for more permanent invoice processing and automation solutions.

Ask your AP prospects

• Have any members of your accounting team had to go into the office to complete tasks during the pandemic?

• How many systems do employees access to complete three-way matching and invoice approval?

• Would it be helpful if you could digitally process and approve invoices, allowing employees to work from any location?

Protecting jobs and keeping an economy flowing

Cooperative Educational Services (CES) is a procurement agency that provides shared purchasing services to 211 public education institutions and 250 public entities in New Mexico. They manage request for proposal (RFP) processes including solicitation, evaluation, vendor selection, and contract management for their members, and work with over 60,000 invoices every year. Managing all this information in paper procurement packets became overwhelming. Before the pandemic, CES converted to digital records and developed an e-procurement process to control the flow of information throughout purchasing. Packets are compiled automatically as each record is received, and review and approval are secure from virtually any location.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, New Mexico encouraged citizens to stay at home and avoid congregating in offices. The CES team agreed that there would have been no way for them to continue to conduct business remotely if they had not already digitized records and converted them to an automated process. Deputy Executive Director Robin Strauser explained, “Our business continues. We haven’t had a slowdown because schools, cities, and counties still need to procure and pay.” And Kelly Basham, AP Specialist, pointed out CES’s critical role in keeping members supplied with essential products and helping money flow into vendor businesses, many of which are local to New Mexico. “We pay $5-8 million per week to vendors, and if those payments stopped, some of them would be forced to lay off staff or close their doors,” she said. “It feels good to know we’re helping not just our own organization, but our customers and vendors to stay in business as well.”

Property management needs electronic forms to close new business

Many businesses that require face-to-face interactions have suffered during the last year due to the need to close offices and send employees home in response to stay-at-home orders. Though designed to protect our population’s well-being, these government orders have handicapped some businesses’ ability to make sales and protect revenue. Property management businesses have been hard hit by these regulations because they require and manage significant paperwork as they complete various processes for their clients, including finding and vetting potential renters, managing utilities and other services, and maintaining up-to-date contracts for each property. This process can be dramatically simplified by converting a business to digital records, including electronic forms (e-forms) and digital signatures (e-signatures), to allow paperwork to be completed and filed online. In many cases, digital records also streamline remote access using cloud-based information management — virtually eliminating any need to be in the office during the pandemic.

Ask your property management prospects

• Have you had to meet clients in person to complete paperwork during the pandemic?

• How much time does that take? Have any potential clients refused face-to-face appointments?

• Would it be helpful if you could complete paperwork electronically, eliminating the need to meet in person and streamlining new client setup?

Converting to electronic forms meant “business as usual” during the pandemic

Real Property Management Vancouver (RPMV) is a full-service property management company serving residential and commercial properties in the Vancouver, Washington, area. They manage the listings for rental properties, vet potential tenants, and negotiate leases for the owners of more than 330 properties and several HOAs. Each owner packet contains dozens of pages, including property contracts, all of the rental agreements for each tenant, and in some cases marketing, utilities, and maintenance information as well. Setting up a new property meant owners had to read and complete nine different forms, which required a lengthy meeting at the RPMV offices.

After digitizing their existing files, RPMV converted the forms in the packet to electronic versions (e-forms) that owners could complete online. Now they simply send a new owner the links for the forms, the owner fills them out, and automated routing notifies RPMV so they can review the information and sign the forms electronically (e-signatures). It even routes the completed packets to a designated broker in compliance with state law. Overall, the process has cut the work required to set up new properties from three to four hours to about 30 minutes, saving RPMV more than $100,000 every year. During COVID-19, RPMV has complied with state orders to stay at home. Their cloud-based information management service provides easy remote access while maintaining high standards of security and compliance. “Business is operating at normal speed. It hasn’t hindered our processes in any way to have people working remotely,” explained owner Bob Butterfield.

As social distancing, stay-at-home, and vaccines bring us closer to the light at the end of this challenging season, digital transformation remains a top priority for businesses. Look around and consider how remote work may have changed the needs of companies in your area. Opportunities abound, and 2021 may be your best year yet.  

Christina Robbins is Vice President of Communication Strategy and Marketing at Digitech Systems LLC, one of the most trusted choices for intelligent information management and business process automation worldwide. Celebrated by industry analysts and insiders as the best enterprise content management and workflow solutions on the market, Digitech Systems has an unsurpassed legacy of accelerating business performance by streamlining digital processes for organizations of any size. For more information visit www.digitechsystems.com.