3 Steps to Meaningful Use of EHR Systems in Hospitals


Throughout the years, a hospital accumulates millions of documents that range from birth certificates, to death certificates, with every procedure in-between. Before electronic medical records, patient charts ruled massive, unorganized, and sometimes chaotic storage spaces. Today, hospitals are switching over to electronic medical records and reaping the myriad benefits.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) group has been providing incentive payments to eligible hospitals and providers who switch over to and meaningfully use electronic health record (EHR) systems since 2009. As of June 2014, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 403,000 professionals have received incentive payments for switching over to meaningful use of EHR. “Meaningfully use” is key here – with no clear way of improving efficiency in transmitting and accessing important documents, healthcare providers will find themselves in a predicament.

1. Generating Better, Faster Patient Experience with File Compression Software

File compression facilitates efficiency in medical centers by improving access to patient information. Reducing file sizes enables faster EHR download speeds, which makes it easier to access patient health files via email or in the cloud on computer stations, tablets, and other mobile devices. Perhaps most importantly, healthcare providers using file compression will find it easier to transfer and receive patient files from other hospitals anywhere in the world. At the organizational level, time spent waiting for patient records to load can be re-captured to reduce appointment duration and make patient care more effective.

In addition to improving health information access speed, using compressed files helps to reduce storage and bandwidth costs. Smaller files take up less space on a server, in the cloud, or over a network. This can generate cost-efficiency for hospitals looking into private cloud and complex hybrid repositories for their EHR systems. The cost-savings attained from reduced storage and network bandwidth needs can free up resources to be used for more effective patient care and help to improve a provider’s ability to compete in the current health market.

2. Repurpose Staff’s Time & Resources with OCR Technology 

Optical character recognition (OCR) technology eases the process of accessing patient data by equipping healthcare professionals with more efficient, fully text-searchable EHR files. Looking through health records without OCR can take hours, draining healthcare providers of resources and increasing labor costs as their administrative and medical staff search manually for patient information. OCR maximizes employees’ time by changing the process from a manual “needle in a haystack” hunt to a simple, instant keyword search. This helps hospitals and healthcare facilities run more efficiently, creating smarter, faster patient care practices.

During the process of switching to EHR, many aspects of organization and adequate labeling of medical records are lost. With HIPAA medical record retention regulations, medical records have to be stored anywhere from 3 to 10 years, depending on the state. As a result, millions of documents end up stored in hospitals and clinics. Healthcare professionals also tend to store medical records for a longer time as a precautionary measure, which causes the number of patient files to skyrocket. Finding the patient file you need at a moment’s notice takes time and resources that staff could be using elsewhere.

OCR technology allows users to perform instant keyword search on health record archives to find the information they need. This can cut down patient waiting times and make personnel more efficient in the office. These cost-saving measures allow for budgets to be allocated elsewhere in the hospital and free up resources so that hospitals can improve services. Applying OCR to EHR helps to make patient health information to be available whenever and wherever it is needed.

3. Reducing Cost and Boosting Staff Efficiency with Watched Folders

From self-dispensing medicine to seamless hospital transfers, automation is all around. In the case of electronic health records, applying automated file compression and OCR processing can ensure even faster, streamlined care. Automating it with watched folders is a way to ensure files are being processed without manual intervention.

With watched folders or “hot folders,” the software automatically begins processing documents as they enter a specified folder. This allows staff to take care of more important tasks while relying on their system to automatically create compressed, text-searchable documents. With this automated process in place, hospitals and healthcare providers can ensure that their documents are faster and easier to email, download, store, and manage.

On an organizational level, having this degree of automation in place also ensures that medical staff will spend less time waiting for EHR records to download or searching for a specific patient’s file in an otherwise unorganized database. With watched folders in place, healthcare providers can realize front-end and back-end improvements, including increases in patient visit efficiency and reductions in network and document storage requirements.

Improving Patient Care through Meaningful Use of EHR

Medical centers face thousands, perhaps millions of documents per year ranging from patient records to bills, insurance documentation, and more. When scanning documents, it’s easy for information to get lost without some sort of standardized system in place to make everything organized and more accessible.

The transition from paper to EHRs enables hospitals for better patient care, reduced wait times, and greater efficiency when used strategically. File compression has allowed for medical staff to retrieve records faster, improving patient treatment rates. OCR has enabled staff to search keywords and find the health records or insurance documents they are looking for in a moment’s notice. Watched folders free up staff to address more important tasks while their files are automatically processed. All of these advances in technology not only facilitate faster patient care, but also improve the quality of care.

Meaningful use of electronic health records in hospitals goes way beyond uploading documents into a system to just to meet requirements and cooperate with standard compliance laws. With the ability to improve patient care as well as reduce costs in document-driven processes, meaningful use of EHR systems is something every healthcare provider should strive for.

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