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Taking Care of Patients

By Dennis McCafferty Print this article Print

Document and content management often involves the transformation of paper files into a digital format. But it also encompasses areas such as security, disaster recovery, collaboration, e-discovery and printer management.

Taking Care of Patients

Caris Healthcare, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based hospice provider with branches throughout the state, cares for more than a thousand terminally ill patients a year. Understandably, families of those patients may be in an unsettling emotional state, especially during the intake process when Caris staffers meet with them to get a sense of the patient’s medical history, prescriptions needs, contact information and financial details, etc.

These details help doctors, bereavement counselors, chaplains and other staffers provide proper care, and they enable administrators to come up with an amenable contract for services. Traditionally, this information was assembled with paper documents—a tedious experience for the patient’s family and the hospice’s staff.

Now, Caris is streamlining the process by converting virtually all its paperwork into digital format. “We were looking to create greater ease of access to the documents,” says Troy Chambers, IT director. “We also wanted to save costs by eliminating paperwork, and we wanted a system that included a strong disaster-recovery plan.”

Caris turned to Eastman Kodak to devise a Web-based solution that would reduce the cost and complexity of document workflow during intake. Kodak partnered with FileWorks, which takes images from Kodak scanners and creates e-docs out of them: PDFs, Word documents and JPEGs. Four Caris locations have already been converted, and all 17 will be using e-docs by the end of the year.

Originally, management thought there might be a problem with converting documents that required a physician’s signature. But Caris discovered that the state of Tennessee allowed a photocopy of the physician’s signature on documents, so the photocopied signatures were scanned into all e-docs. The solution also met encryption standards dictated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

As far as access goes, staffers are allowed to call up documents based on their job titles, responsibilities and work location. Central office employees have greater latitude, while those in service locations generally have access only to documents that relate to clients being treated at their site.

The system is also secure enough to allow employees to access these documents remotely, which is important when a company has 17 locations. “This will save our auditing team time and money,” Chambers says. “Instead of crisscrossing all over the state to get a file from a particular location, our auditing team can simply call it up through this system from the central office where they work. For their purposes, an e-doc and a paper document are the same.”

The need for greater disaster recovery has also been met. “It’s all backed up at a site that hasn’t even been disclosed to me, which is the way I prefer it,” Chambers says, reasoning that the lower the site’s profile is, the more secure the information will be.

This article was originally published on 2009-09-04
Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.
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