Full Guide to Paper Processes Automation in Healthcare

There’s hardly any action within the healthcare industry that doesn’t involve paperwork. Think of it: the staff should put down the information about the visits, examination, payment, medication supply, medication receipts, lab results, audit data, compliance protocols — the list can go on. Keeping all that in paper-based format clutters the space and creates havoc when authorized workers search for the document, but imagine losing an important paper in that chaos.

The outcome may cost patients’ trust, extra spending you may pay as a fine for not following the paperwork requirements, and performance quality of your staff. Automation document process in healthcare is a way to avoid these outcomes and ensure steady digitalization of your practice for the years to come. In this article, we review the problems that healthcare stakeholders face with non-automated paperwork flow and how to automate paper process in healthcare industry.

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Why We Need Automation Paper Process in Healthcare

From filling out forms to writing down test results into a patient’s record — the paperwork in any hospital or practice is document-intensive. A study on nurses’ time allocation and multitasking shows, for example, that nurses spend 25% of their work time on dealing with documents — time that they could spend on attending to patients’ immediate needs. But that’s not the only issue with paper-based processes. Here are a few other problems that the non-automation approach can lead to.

  • Inconsistency of record entries. Even if a patient has visits to various doctors within the same clinics, collecting all entries into the same paper medical records takes a lot of time and effort from the administrative or nursing personnel. 
  • High chance of losing the documents. Physical database moves around with the doctor’s office, and there’s a high chance that some documents will be lost on the way. 
  • Poor claim management. Dealing with insurance is another pain point when it comes to paper-based handling. Not only does the staff need time to fill out the form — they need to look through the whole patient history and protocol classification to complete it correctly.
  • Impossibility to adopt digital solutions. Digitalization in healthcare starts with digitization, which can’t be done without switching to digital paperwork. For example, if the practice wants to implement AI-powered analytical tools to track the patient flow over a certain time, they need to have this information ready in digital format. 
  • Higher labor cost. Manual dealing with paperwork is a time-consuming activity for the staff and money-spending one for the management. Automation solutions can cut the time spent on routine and, consequently, cut the labor cost. 

As we’ve covered the flip side of dealing with hard-copy documents, let’s consider some benefits of document process automation in healthcare.

Precise Bill Settlement

Bill calculation is one of the routine tasks where automation can significantly reduce the errors when adding up the cost of treatment, tests, insurance coverage, discounts, or promotions. In addition, it can notify the patients about the appointment costs, so they know how much they need to pay after, based on their insurance policy and other conditions.

Better Diagnostic Precision

Having all records available within a few clicks allows a doctor to evaluate the patient’s health with more precision. Digital medical records keep entries together and make it possible to deploy analytical algorithms that could interpret the test results or notify the care provider about findings. 

Accurate Claim Processing

Insurance claim management is another activity that the designated employees deal with on a daily basis. The thing is, it’s not only needed to calculate the total, but also to get the proper reimbursement for the provider. Dealing with claims manually is a long, error-prone process, which can affect the practice’s cash flow, so it’s in their best interest to reduce the possibility of errors and speed the process up. That’s exactly what automation is aimed at. Here you can read in detail about how automation affects insurance claims processing

Enhanced Patient Experience

Think about the relief that your patient will experience, knowing that they won’t need to fill out the forms with the data they gave you during initial patient onboarding. Or receiving more attention from the specialist instead of watching them fill out the protocol. Or knowing that they can book an appointment for the most suitable time slot by themselves. These small things create a positive image of your practice and free patients and staff from doing tasks that the algorithms should.

Improved Practice Productivity

Filling out forms isn’t the only case when the practice deals with documents. Others include:

  • Compliance documentation and auditing results
  • Digitizing patient’s intake documentation
  • Patient tracking
  • Shift planning and staff management
  • Inventory and medicine management 
  • Revenue cycle operations (RCO)

Being able to do all that in a system with multiple authorized users will enhance the overall staff performance, and will allow for better coordination between the departments, administrators, nurses, and doctors. 

How to Automate Paper Process in Medical Industry: 3 Key Components

Deciding to start an automation paper process in a healthcare institution is step zero, but to move forward, you need more than that. This is what you should consider. 

  • Short- and long-term automation strategies. Tackling the issues where your practice is currently lagging will help to improve the status quo, but thinking 5-10 years ahead will prepare you for implementing other digital solutions easier and faster. 
  • Ongoing paper-based processes. Prioritizing what you need to automate first is important to make sure that you address the ‘hot mess’ before it burns everything. For example, if you don’t have electronic medical records in place but think about automating claim management, doing so will most likely double the paperwork burden for your workers. 
  • Tech partner. Hiring a team that’s experienced with medtech development for the healthcare institutions is a key to ending up with robust, compliant, and effective solutions that would resolve the paperwork burden without creating a digital one. 

These three components are necessary if you want to make your paper-free approach cost you less and cause no re-does along the way. And here are the steps to automate the paper process in hospitals that your organization will need to take. 

7 Steps to Automate Paper Process in Healthcare

The automation paper process in medicine is a lengthy process that involves collaboration between the practice’s in-house team and the hired tech team. This collaboration should have timely and clear communication, so the parties understand where they are at each stage. So, what are the steps to automate the paper process in healthcare, and where to start?

Step 1. Audit Your Business for the Automation Needs

Before searching about how to automate the paper process in healthcare, the practice needs to know what there is to automate first. For this, you can interview your workers where they find the paper-based processes causing most bottlenecks, or hire an audit team. 

Step 2. Review Your Existing Legacy System

If you don’t have any tools that collect the information digitally, then you go straight to the next step. However, if you already have software adopted, you’ll need to check if the legacy system is compatible with the software under development, whether it can ensure routing, approval, and distribution of standard operating procedures (SOPs), and then integrate it. 

Sometimes, your existing system may need upgrades based on new legal requirements or new software specifications, so knowing it beforehand will give you a clear idea of the timeframe, budget, and tech specialists needed.

Step 3. Choose Your Tech Partner

The choice of the tech partner will impact a lot of factors along the way, such as the cost, estimated integration date, tools and languages used, approach, and overall process vibe. We strongly advise you to team up with the developers, who have successfully implemented medtech solutions into similar practices.

Step 4. Create a Development Plan 

After you choose the team, it’s time to break the work into pieces. This process comes with a detailed list of tasks and desired deadlines. Planning here is important, as it will function as a navigation guide of your project and inform where your team is at. Plus, the company’s team will know when to expect the system shutdown.

Step 5. Develop the Needed Modules and Have Code Base Ready

Whether it’s a cloud-based or hardware-based solution, you’ll most likely code parts separately in order to put them together later on. This ‘lego’ approach works perfectly when you deal with cloud computing, and its main advantage is that you can easily tweak a particular module without changing the whole system.

Step 6. Integrate it Into Existing Software

As you have the code, it’s time to integrate it with other tools. Here the cooperation with the in-house technicians is paramount, as they are the key players in moving the databases and navigating the whole process with ease.

Step 7. Develop an Emergency Backup Plan and Maintenance Schedule

Adopting the system is a half job done, another half is to future-proof its performance and get it ready for the unexpected. Healthcare IT is the industry where emergency back-ups and breach handling are regulated, so the provider needs to make sure that their IT infrastructure complies with them. Plus, you need to plan maintenance works, so it wouldn’t be a surprise for the employees that they will be cut off from the system. 

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Cost of Automation Document Process in Healthcare 

As an entrepreneur, you want to know how much the development and deployment of the paperless system will cost your business. We get it. As a company that deals with process digitization services, we know how tricky it can be to estimate the software development off the cuff. However, we can surely list factors that would affect price formation for any tech developer. Here’s what we included.

  • Project scope. Developing solutions for the global healthcare system is different from developing the same solution for a startup or a private practice since there will be more users, more document volume, users, and, consequently, more work and technologies to integrate. Plus, they will need to follow different protocols, standards, and law requirements for creating solutions that deal with data processing.
  • Technology used. AI-powered algorithms that do analytics need more time for development than a simple sorting algorithm.
  • Deadline. If you want to have your solution implemented faster than the timeframe estimate given by the tech team, there’s a chance they will ask for some money to compensate their developers.
  • Data that has to be migrated. Or, to be more precise, its volume and peculiarities of migration. For large-scale companies, manual migration might not be an option, since it will take too long, so the tech vendor will need to come up with the code to relocate data or use ready-made compliant solutions. 

Consider Empeek Your Trusted Partner

Empeek knows how to automate paper process in medical industry first-hand. One of our cases was developing a HIPAA-compliant electronic medical record solution that didn’t only allow for a paper-free approach for keeping and collecting the patient’s data, but also made one-click appointment scheduling possible, automated HIPAA compliance activities, and notified patients and doctors about test results. 

Partnering with Empeek, you get a seasoned developers team that understands the legal requirements to the healthcare providers regarding the data collection and processing, and uses the tech stack that is industry-accepted. Plus, having developed other medtech solutions, we can advise on adding or modifying features that will benefit your long-term automation strategy. 

Final Thoughts

Automation of paperwork processes indeed simplifies the workflow of the medical staff. Practitioners can spend less time on manual tasks such as filling out paper forms or keeping record registers and pay more attention to the patient’s health. Moreover, automation reduces risks of errors that could impact patient experience, their health, and the practice’s cash flow. Partnering with reliable developers and understanding how to automate document process in healthcare is a surefire way to create a solution that will help solve current issues with paper-based document flow and will be a reliable base for further automation steps. 

The Empeek team is ready to walk this path with you. Have a look at what we do, and contact us about your automation project today!

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FAQs

Since the population grows older and by 2050 every one in six people will be over 60, the workload for the medical staff will increase. If your practice will continue with a non-automation approach and won’t have trained employees who know how to use it, the performance of your practice will decrease. Plus, you won’t be able to fully reap the benefits of more complex automation processes.

Yes, you can do it, but you need to make sure these developers know what are the requirements of the state for which the software is intended, and how to deal with cross-country data transfer.

It depends on the project scope, technical requirements, team skills, and solution that would be used. Rough estimates can vary from 6 to 18 months.

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