Deciding to Establish a Paper-Free Medical Office

How to Go Paperless and Why

Digital Medical Record
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Over the last 10 years, the process of going paperless has continued to be a topic of discussion for medical providers. While some providers have taken the necessary steps to become paperless, there are still many that haven't taken the leap just yet. It appears, however, that in order to survive in today's economy, it is becoming increasingly important to take the medical office to a new level.

Pros and Cons of a Paperless Medical Office

Going from a medical office that is fairly up-to-date on technology to completely paperless is the new reality in today's world. For some, it is a dream come true, while for others is a nightmare. As a medical office professional, I can say it is neither. A paperless medical office can have the same number of challenges as any other office but offers many benefits not present in a traditional medical office.

Some providers may shy away from going paperless because it sounds like a huge task to accomplish that may be costly and time-consuming. The truth is that these assumptions are not entirely wrong. The upfront expenses and time requirements of converting to a paperless office can be intimidating. However, once implemented, going paperless is cost effective, saves time, and outweighs the risks of not going paperless.

Changes Needed to Make Your Medical Office Paperless

The good news is that most medical offices have a head start to going completely paperless. A typical medical office is equipped with electronic medical records, software scheduling, electronic billing, charge capture, and transcription services. To transform a medical office, there are a few changes that can be made to facilitate the implementation to a paperless environment.

  • The ability to scan a patient's photo ID and insurance information; paper EOB's (explanation of benefits) and other correspondence from insurance companies; and paper medical records to be changed to an electronic health record.
  • Patient portals integrated with the medical office software as an anytime, anywhere interactive resource that provides information and increases patient participation in scheduling appointments, completing registration information, obtain x-ray and lab results, asking questions, and paying their bills.
  • The electronic health record (EHR) enables health care providers to effectively manage patient care through the documentation, storage, use and sharing of patient records. There are five major benefits of switching from a paper medical record to an electronic health record (EHR).
  • E-prescribing is a safer, more secure and faster method of prescribing patient medication. E-prescribing is the means of transmitting a prescription or prescription-related information between a prescriber or dispenser in an electronic format either directly or through an e-prescribing network.
  • Electronic documentation software allows for electronic documents to be altered (markups, highlights, whiteouts, blackouts), fax electronically, emailed, and saved or printed to PDF.

While no medical office is 100% paper free, there are some simple measures that can definitely bring about drastic results. For instance, some insurance companies still require paper billing or still submit payments by check and not all patients will pay by credit card.

Each medical office must use their own discretion in determining how closely the office gets to being completely paperless. It is important to consider that some employees may prefer paper documents especially when it is from an internal source. In order to maintain positive employee morale, it may be necessary to continue offering paper alternatives.

Not every office is the same and there may be some things added or taken away from the list above. The important thing to remember is that change is inevitable and it is better to implement changes to become paperless in a way that adds benefit to your medical office while improving the level of care provided to your patients.

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