IPS Blog

Backfile scanning scenarios to optimize EHR investment

May 24, 2012 10:44:03 AM

I’ve written before about how hospitals and medical practices can utilize backfile conversion techniques to fully leverage their investment in an electronic health records (EHR) system.

While I firmly believe backfile scanning is a necessary step in any successful EHR implementation, I recognize that doing it all at once can be a daunting proposition, both in scope and investment.

Fortunately, there are options for facilities for which a full, up-front backfile conversion is not a possibility. At my company, we refer to them as “scan on-demand” and “just-in-time scanning.”

Both make sense in certain cases. Document management studies have shown that, once a file is pulled, the likelihood it will be accessed again in the near future increases exponentially. Thus, it can make sense to focus backfile conversion investment on files most likely to be used – and re-used.

Scan on-demand: A scan on-demand project is exactly what it sounds like: Patient records are digitized one at a time, based on individual need. In a medical setting, this would likely mean scanning records for each patient the day of or the day after an appointment. The work can be done on-site at the hospital or practice, or all records can be shipped to an off-site scanning facility after the visit and scanned on an as-needed basis.

This solution can be cost-effective compared to an “all at once” backfile conversion, as it minimizes the amount of unnecessary digitization work actually performed. But it’s less proactive than its cousin …

Just-in-time scanning: At its core, just-in-time scanning is a hybrid approach between a full backfile conversion and scan on-demand. Rather than digitizing everything at the beginning of the project or waiting until the day it’s needed, records and charts are scanned a week ahead of time, based on the facility’s upcoming appointment calendar.

The result, on a day-to-day basis, is similar to that of a full backfile conversion, but with a substantially reduced initial investment.

With potentially reduced costs, of course, comes a tradeoff. Scan on-demand and just-in-time scanning each require an ongoing commitment of manpower, on both the coordination and imaging ends. Still, both remain valuable options in the quiver of facilities hoping to fully leverage a new EHR implementation.