Healthcare facilities aren’t like other businesses. Their “products” are people’s health and wellbeing. Nonetheless, they still have to deal with many of the same issues as any other business, one of which is the management of documents. Ripon Medical Center (RMC), a 25-bed facility that has served the people of Ripon, Wisconsin since 1936, is no exception. A critical access hospital operating in a rural setting, RMC offers a wide range of primary care and specialized medical services to the more than 25,000 people in the area.
A Failing Document Management System
A medical center’s goal is superior health outcomes. Medical treatments and services are clearly paramount in achieving that objective, but good healthcare also demands good recordkeeping. Each patient visit generates documents, including not just the patient’s medical chart, but also registration information and various forms required to receive reimbursement from insurance companies or the government. Much of this paperwork is created using data stored on RMC’s model 520 iSeries system. In the past, that data was merged with form overlays, laser-printed, and then the forms were scanned back into network storage and the paper was sent offsite for safekeeping.
Hardcopy document production required considerable time and expense. Paper had to be purchased, loaded into printers, and the resulting documents scanned back into the system. Then the physical documents had to be sent to the people who needed them or offsite for storage. As expensive as that was, RMC incurred the greatest liability when trying to retrieve document images. Despite being in an electronic form, they weren’t adequately indexed. In the past, due to this lack of indexes and because the directory structure used to store the images did not impart sufficient information about the documents stored in each folder, users had to hunt for electronic documents on network storage.
In addition to the paper and electronic documents that it created during and after every patient visit, RMC printed monthly hardcopy reports to track patient account payments, write-offs, and other relevant information. Like any paper documents, the distribution and management of these physical reports was costly and cumbersome. RMC wanted a much more efficient way to manage and access its documents. The solution was Webdocs, from HelpSystems.
Simplifying Processes and Improving Accuracy with Webdocs
Webdocs allows organizations to store document images and other files, such as PC files, emails and computer-generated reports, on iSeries or PC servers. The documents can then be accessed using up to 10 keys.
Those keys can be entered manually or Webdocs can automatically extract them from barcodes or textual data appearing within the images. Once loaded into the system, authorized personnel can use a standard Web browser to access the images over the Internet from anywhere in the world.
Wayne Johnston, director of information services at RMC, was already familiar with HelpSystems from his work at a previous employer and was very satisfied with HelpSystems products and services, but he didn’t stop there in his evaluation of document management alternatives. He considered other products, but found that Webdocs was the winner on price and features.
Johnston reports that, “the installation of Webdocs was very simple. I downloaded all of the software from the Web. Then it’s just a couple of clicks of a button and you’re done.”
RMC currently stores six different document types on Webdocs, with plans to increase that number in the future. Typically, document streams are captured from spool files and automatically burst into individual documents using other HelpSystems software. They are then merged with forms overlays and processed by Webdocs. Documents no longer need to be printed and scanned. Now, they are automatically available as document images, without the need for manual processing.
When available, Webdocs automatically picks up keys directly from documents so they can be indexed for easy searching. This automated indexing eliminates the possibility of human error and misfiled paperwork. Documents that originate on paper can be scanned into the system and, when necessary, keys can be assigned to the document manually.
Accessing the digitized paperwork managed by Webdocs is now a trivial exercise for RMC employees. When they are working with their normal business applications, they simply move the cursor to a key field, such as patient ID, press a button, and Webdocs automatically displays documents related to that patient. The same is true of any other key field on the screen, so authorized users can quickly and easily view documents related to a particular doctor or a specific patient visit.
Document Indexing and Management Made Easy
Obviously, there have been paper savings from the use of Webdocs as many reports and forms are now stored directly as digital images, instead of being printed and then scanned as they were in the past. Instead, many documents remain electronic throughout their life-cycle, without the need for intermediate paper processing. This also reduced labor costs as it eliminated manual scanning processes.
As significant as the savings have been on the document production side, RMC claims that Webdocs delivers its greatest benefits by greatly speeding and simplifying information retrieval. In the past, because document images were not indexed and they were stored in folders that shed little light on the contents of the documents in them, users often had to spend considerable time searching for information. Today, with the help of Webdocs’ superior document indexing and access features, information retrieval is fast and easy. For example, in the past, some types of documents were filed based on the day of the patient visit. Finding documents for a particular patient was difficult. Now it’s just an easy press of a button.
“Most of our users are far from technology geeks,” said Johnston. “But they took to it right away. They think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”
RMC also greatly values the security features of Webdocs. Like all organizations that work with healthcare data, RMC is legally bound by the very strict privacy regulations of the Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act Of 1996 (HIPAA). Webdocs supports HIPAA requirements by allowing documents to be tied to specific iSeries user profiles, thereby strictly limiting access to only those people who should have it.
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