Unstructured information — the content that resides outside your organization’s core systems and processes — plagues practically every healthcare organization. For patient care, it’s the 25 percent of patient information – paper or electronic – that exists outside your EMR. In patient finance, it’s the data outside your billing and financial systems. And in accounting, it lives beyond the reach of your ERP system.
But why is unstructured information an issue and how can effectively managing it improve the user experience? Here are five steps to improve user experience at healthcare facilities.
Step 1: Identify it
Before you think of ways to better manage your unstructured content, you first need to understand what it is. For each organization, this content can be a different assortment of documents and information collected from all departments.
For example, in care delivery, unstructured content can be everything from faxed orders and diagnostic images to the actual paper chart. In accounting departments, invoices and the information surrounding specific financial transactions often exist as unstructured content.
The list goes on, but the key here is to understand the nature of the unstructured content each department faces.
Step 2: Get it out of the way
Odds are, paper and other physical content like faxes, EKGs, photocopies, and patient charts are in someone’s way. Sifting through a stack of faxes for that one piece of paper a nurse needs leads to frustration, reduces time spent caring for patients, and increases the likelihood that another piece of information may be lost or misfiled.
Even if your organization’s paper content is safely stored in a central filing location, that storage costs money and space that might be better allocated to patient care. An enterprise content management solution can help by allowing you to capture the diverse range of information and content within your organization – paper, faxes, diagnostic and digital images, insurance cards, patient IDs, and more. Capturing this content eliminates physical storage and management reducing frustrations about finding information and saving on storage and filing costs.
Step 3: Put it somewhere safe
Capturing that unstructured content is only the beginning. Now the question becomes — where you will put that information? An ideal solution will provides you with a single, secure repository for electronic storage of this unstructured content, reducing complexity in your IT environment by eliminating disparate, disconnected content silos.
Unstructured information also poses a security risk. Storing content in a secure location reduces the risk of a HIPAA violation while at the same time providing audit trails that make compliance with Joint Commissions, Sarbanes Oxley, and other initiatives much simpler.
Step 4: Make it easy to find
For this content to be useful, the people who need it should be able to find it easily and quickly. When integrated with an organization’s core applications, ECM solutions provide instant access to content within those systems, often with a simple click of the mouse.
For clinicians, that means finding information once in paper charts quickly within the EMR. For those in patient financial services, it means finding transactional billing data within the billing system instead of on an EOB or isolated EDI transaction. And for those in finance and accounting, it means finding an invoice within the ERP system.
Step 5: Send it where it needs to go
The last and final step helps people work more efficiently. Using electronic workflows will direct content to the appropriate staff based on rules you define is. For example, in HIM, coders and analysts receive electronic charts on the basis of encounter type, complexity, facility, or any other criteria suited to that department. In accounting and finance, invoices route to the appropriate approval channels based on amount or invoice type. Users work more efficiently within predictable parameters, ensuring processes run more smoothly and efficiently.
Unstructured content, regardless of its form, leads to user frustration. Following the steps outlined above will help your organization turn a source of annoyance into a point of efficiency. That, in turn, leads to happy users – users who understand the value of the systems and services your IT department delivers and supports.
Dan West is healthcare solutions manager at Hyland Software of Westlake, OH.