Referrals and Medical Records Management staff are overwhelmed with paper and manual processes. Technology can reduce the workload, expedite the process, be the catalyst to better care and potentially create more opportunities for additional referrals, but how do you justify the capital investment needed for transformation? 

Challenges identified with referral and medical records management

A broken process results in three key challenges:

Lost Productivity

  • The process to capture and scan any medical record into a repository is often manual, paper-based and inefficient, essentially applying the brakes on productivity.  
  • Additional unstructured documents associated with radiology, laboratory, pharmacology and consultations continue to aggregate during the patient stay, adding to the bulk of the hard chart.  These documents pile up waiting to be scanned during the patient’s stay to make them accessible to clinicians.  

Patient Risk

  • Limited checks and balances to eliminate human error, which can often lead to incomplete records being ingested.  
  • Patients may be admitted without proper medical review which potentially affects health outcomes and their satisfaction.  

Escalating Costs/Reduced Profitability

  • Missing information leads to a readmission. 
  • Delay in communicating to a referral source also impacts customer service and could prevent the opportunity for a patient admission. 
  • At discharge, the entire hard chart is broken down for archiving, adding to ever-growing facility or offsite storage costs
  • Profitability is affected by escalating operational costs associated with the manual capture and storage of unstructured medical records and the escalating cost to store these physical records after discharge.  Retrieval of any document from these storage sites is often an unsuccessful time sink, and may have an impact on compliance.

Modernizing with Digital Transformation 

Supporting staff through automation can positively impact productivity, profitability, patient outcomes and referral opportunities. 

Productivity improves with business process automation of paper-based, manual processes that provide new efficiencies with accountability. The time saved can be used to calculate the labor cost savings to complete those tasks. 

Depending on the volumes processed and the cost for the labor, these savings recognized at the facility level will aggregate across all care centers to provide a substantial financial benefit for the enterprise. Just as important, the time saved can be redirected to complete more meaningful tasks for the facility and enterprise.

Profitability is improved with the time saving business process automation and reduction in the storage cost to archive the physical chart. Potentially, if done correctly, the hard chart could be eliminated completely while still maintaining a longitudinal view of the clinical content electronically. This is the topic of my next post: Delivering a Paperless Clinical Environment for Improved Patient Care.  

Digital transformation will save time and allow better decisions to be made faster.  Customer value improves with the potential for better patient care and more timely communications with referral sources and payers. 

Measure of success:

Adopting best practices for capture, storage and retrieval create new efficiencies. They also improve accountability. Notable time savings observed with digital transformation for a post-acute care provider include:

  • Admission Process:
    • Greater than 75% improved efficiency observed when compared to the prior processes necessary to capture and then upload content to the previously used repository.
    • 90% time savings observed for electronic documentation review for the business office, clinical management team and admissions team. 
  • Scanning Ancillary Documents and Hard Chart Breakdown:
    • 56% fewer “clicks” to upload a document in the content management solution
    • 68% time savings for managing documents in a content services platform (such as OnBase) vs. EMR
  • Compliance improves with the ability to retrieve content that is not native to the EMR for an Additional Document Request (ADR), review of medical necessity or legal considerations.
    • Retrieval of any stored document is near instant and easily recalled by patient, document type, date, facility, or in any combination of these criteria.
    • Ability to generate reports to analyze information vs. looking up each patient to review info resulted in a time savings greater than an  hour
  • Electronic archival eliminates the labor intensive and often failed search of boxes in a storage facility.
  • Corporate/support staff can now view documents from any location and quickly offer solutions or advice without incurring travel time or the need for paper scans between parties.

Modernization with digital transformation provides the opportunity to leverage standardized best practice solutions across all care centers. This creates new efficiencies with accountability for all automated tasks. Productivity, profitability and value to patients and their referral sources all benefit with digital transformation.  

Scott Magers is an account executive at Hyland Healthcare.