Healthcare News & Insights

Survey: Providers still buried in paperwork, despite EHRs

Though electronic health records (EHRs) are catching on, a new survey says many healthcare organizations are still struggling to get rid of all their paper documents. 

Despite growing adoption of EHRs and other healthcare technology, many organizations are still relying on paper-based processes, according to a recent survey from Anoto, a maker of digital pen and paper technology.

Of the providers polled that are using or currently implementing an EHR system, 80% said they still use paper records in some situations. Also, more than half of respondents overall said paper is still a primary source for tracking information in their organization’s daily activities.

Why has it been so hard for those organizations to get away from paper? The top reasons cited:

  1. Paper is too embedded in the organization’s culture
  2. The cost of adopting technology is too high, and
  3. Too much training and disruption to care is required to fully implement electronic systems.

The organizations surveyed don’t think they’re likely to move away from paper anytime soon, either — 78% of respondents said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will either increase the amount of paperwork they have to deal with or keep it the same.

One challenge many organizations face when they first implement an EHR system: converting old paper records into digital form. Experts recommend three different methods providers can choose from to ease that transition:

  1. Scanning all paper charts into the EMR system – This process will get the practice ready to make full use of EMRs as soon as all records are scanned. However, it can be very expensive in terms of staff hours.
  2. Hiring an outside firm – There are service providers that will convert paper medical records to EMRs. Often, the software provider offers this service as an option. Many providers find this is more cost effective than paying staffing members to scan charts.
  3. Converting paper records as patients visit – Some providers decide to periodically (weekly or daily) convert paper records for patients scheduled to visit in the coming day or week. This option is popular because it spreads the work over a long period of time. Also, it avoids having to convert records for patients who no longer make visits.

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