Paperless offices remain rare

Friday, May 31, 2002

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - In theory, the paperless office is where everyone wants to be; In reality, HME providers have been reluctant to embrace the concept.

Although Computers Applications Unlimted unveiled a document imaging system one year ago, the company is still trolling a reluctant market for customers. CareCentric found one customer who is happy with the system in Oakwood Village, Ohio-based Medical Service Companies, but then dropped its initiative due to low demand.

In March, Fastrack Healthcare found an early adopter in the University of Michigan Home Care Services. Not turning theory into reality, increasingly, became a real problem.

Dick Raymond, manager of information systems, said that managing 14,000 patient charts generated so much paper that its facility storage space was bursting at the seams.

"The space constraints were tremendous," he said. "Each file has an average of 31 pages. On top of that, we get approximately 100 orders per day, which generates more paper."

When HIPAA patient security rules came out, the university saw it as an opportunity to launch a paperless system, Raymond said. As subscribers to Fastrack's Windows-based software, adding six scanners and the needed system modifications was a logical extension.

"We're getting the document imaging part of the process up first - gaining control of paper is our No. 1 priority," Raymond said. "From there we'll proceed into the HIPAA portion of it."

Fastrack President Spencer Kay said HME companies need to look at how much time they're wasting with paper and how automation can give them an advantage.

"Once people understand what it's about, they'll get on board," he said. "The technology is so good and the price has come down so much that even small businesses can achieve a paperless environment."

At the U of M, paperwork for any patient currently listed in accounts receivable is being scanned, as are new entries. Raymond said all orders that come in can be scanned in a day, which has expedited information flow greatly.

The conversion to electronic documentation became "an instant success with the user community," Raymond said. "They have instant look-up capabilities. They can find information on cash receipts quickly. It is also much easier for therapists to review patient charts. The system will connect to care plans eventually, but we haven't gotten that far yet." HME