Passage of the Health Care for America Plan (aka, Obamacare) gave a big boost to electronic medical records (EMR). According to Healthcare IT News, EMR system sales rose 14% to $18bn in 2011, double the size of the market in 2007. The magazine reported in August of that year that advertising for healthcare professionals with EMR experience grew 31% year-over-year.
EMR or electronic health records, as they are also known, serve a laudable goal. They will replace manual processes and paper files with searchable digital files that can be accessed by all authorized users regardless of their location. Once they are widely implemented, gone will be the days of patients being treated by physicians who know nothing about their histories, because those histories are stored in paper files in another state. Healthcare outcomes should improve, productivity should rise and costs fall.
The path to widespread adoption of EMR, however, must cross the Document-Data Gap. The patient file consists of forms, handwritten notes, reports and images from many sources. For the EMR to be useful, this document-based information must be captured and incorporated into the digital record. “You have to get the information into the system,” says IPS CEO Greg Bartels, “not just create an electronic duplicate of the document.” The standard today is for hospitals, clinics and practices to scan their paper records into digital documents. That lets the paper files go into permanent storage or be destroyed, but it does not ensure that all the data from the documents get into the patient records.
“The EMR record is not structured like the paper or scanned documents,” adds Greg. “There may be six separate screens to be filled in for each patient. In practice, that inconsistency leads to a lot of cutting and pasting of information from previous visits into today’s visit. There is a lot of digital ‘paper-pushing’ with the patient in the room, which does not produce better quality of care.”
What’s the solution? High-quality scanning of paper documents, with 100% quality control, is just the beginning. The vital next step is intelligent capture, which combines software-based approaches like optical character recognition with data entry by human operators and data review by Subject Matter Experts, who have enough knowledge and expertise to spot errors and inconsistencies before they become part of the EMR. The resulting data is imported into the EMR for improved patient care and used to “tag” the digital documents, making them instantly searchable.
The result is the best of both worlds: complete and accurate data on each patient and instant access to the digital paper trail. For a healthcare system challenged to improve outcomes while reducing costs, it is the only way to win.
To learn more about how IPS helps hospitals, clinics and physician practices bridge the document-data gap, click on the Contact Us links to the right.