Planner: Calculating Costs of an Electronic Document Management System

Project Overview
Things to do in the hospital’s information-technology department this week:

  • Check the payment processing glitch that popped up again in the dermatology practice.
  • Conduct semiannual test of disaster-recovery systems.
  • Scan 6 million medical records and convert them to electronic files stored on a secure network.

OK, maybe you won’t get to all of that this week. But with another deadline looming from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, you’ll want to be sure you at least get started on Item 3. In truth, HIPAA’s April 2005 mandate for securing patients’ electronic records should be only part of the motivation for your 500-bed hospital to finally tackle that enormous warehouse of paper files and microfilm. Implementing an electronic document management (EDM) system could also extend the capabilities of your current electronic medical records (EMR) platform, which is often bogged down by patient data that is scattered throughout the system.

The one-year rollout will require scanning old records, training staff to manage the new system and planning electronic storage needs. You’ll want to convert at least the last five years of old records, often called a backfile, which total roughly 6 million documents. In the interests of speed and efficiency, plan to outsource that work to a production facility. Meanwhile, a systems integrator will help you implement the browser-based EDM application and train full-time staffers to handle your “day-forward” scanning—the 100,000 documents a month your hospital will continue to generate.

“You’ll never get completely away from paper,” says Bruce Bolton, vice president of technology at Portford Solutions Group Inc., an Orange, Calif., consultancy that specializes in health-care document management. “The key is to make sure that information is current, available and secure.”