Why Should Practices Consider Going Paperless?

For many healthcare workers, paperwork is the least productive — not to mention least enjoyable — part of their jobs.

Why? Most healthcare workers enter the field because they like to work with people and because they are interested in the medical and scientific aspects of their jobs, not the administrative aspects. By the same token, local, state and federal agencies are increasingly requiring lengthy and/or complex documentation just to meet basic standards. In fact, a recent report co-sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the American Hospital Association reveals that every hour of patient care at U.S. hospitals and health systems requires an hour of paperwork for emergency care; 48 minutes for home health care; 36 minutes for surgery or inpatient acute care; and 30 minutes for skilled nursing care. That’s not including the added burden of red tape when a regulatory or organizational change is implemented.

This increasing paperwork burden wastes money as well as time and energy. Another recent report shows that physicians and their staff spend more than 15 hours weekly complying with quality reporting requirements, at an annual cost of more than $15 billion. Further, physician burnout in the U.S. has increased 25 percent in the past four years, a fact physicians ascribe primarily to “too many bureaucratic tasks” and “spending too many hours at work.”

“When less time is devoted to bedside care and more time is spent on regulatory paperwork and compliance, recruiting and retaining experienced, caring professionals — much less attracting future healthcare workers — becomes difficult,” note the study authors. “In an era of serious healthcare worker shortages … we must use our caregivers’ time as efficiently as possible.”

Fortunately, many healthcare facilities have recognized that misappropriation of resources, and they are taking advantage of digital technology that makes recordkeeping faster and more efficient for all.

Advantages of Paperless Practice Management

An example is the digital form builder function now available on the ICANotes patient portal. The portal gives patients a user-friendly way of updating their own records with their demographic data, HPI, past psychiatric history, medical history, family history, social history and developmental history. They can also electronically sign and upload important forms, confirm and cancel appointments and request prescription refills through the portal, all without the need for cumbersome paperwork reflecting every update.

Some other advantages of converting to more digital recordkeeping at your facility?

  • Lower paper costs. U.S. companies alone could save a cumulative $1 billion annually if they reduce their paper waste by just 1 percent, reports the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. That’s not counting the cost and upkeep of traditional equipment such as fax machines, copiers and ink cartridges, or the cost of postage.
  • Better organization. Not having to search through paper files can save staffers time and frustration and conserve your organization’s storage space.
  • Access anywhere, anytime. The ability to remotely access and/or transmit healthcare records in real time could be vitally important to providers and patients.
  • Comprehensive backups. Knowing important information can be retrieved even if the initial copy comes up missing means peace of mind. Web-based systems also eliminate the need for regular manual backups.
  • Data security. Forget shredding: Digital systems go way beyond paper systems to protect the privacy of patients and organizations. Web-based systems can provide top-grade security even to smaller, lower-budget organizations.
  • Environmental soundness. If the U.S. cut its office paper usage by 10 percent, or 540,000 tons, estimates the Environmental Paper Network, greenhouse gas emissions would fall by 1.6 million tons — the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road for a year.

While the AHA is pushing for relief from government-imposed reporting burdens, analysts believe digital recordkeeping that’s accessible to both medical staffers and patients could go a long way toward reducing administrative burdens as a whole.

“Patients are increasingly becoming active players in their own health care, and portal technology is one tool helping them to do so,” reports Akanksha Jayanthi in Becker’s Hospital Review.

“It’s powerful because a patient can be an extraordinary ally in their care,” adds Waco Hoover of the Institute for Health Technology Transformation in the same article. “They catch errors. It empowers the patient and adds a degree of power in care where they can become an active participant.”