Paperless Health Records vs. 100% Paperless Health Records

Paperless-Health-Records-vs.-100%-Paperless-Health-RecordsThe difference between having paperless health records and being 100% paperless can be game-changing. Being 100% paperless means, there are ZERO physical patient charts or paper forms. You process every document in your clinic electronically. However, if your staff documents everything on paper and then scans it into the patient chart, you may be considered “paperless,” but not 100% paperless. Whether you are partially paperless or are considering going paperless, it’s important to understand how to get the most out of your paperless operations.

What is holding you back from having 100% paperless health records? 

Paperless-Health-Records_Prepare for-disasters with-automatic-backupsAccess and outage concerns  

Often there is a fear of not being able to access patient charts when the power is out, or a system is down. Additional safeguards need to support your EHR (electronic health record). For clinics to run at optimal efficiency, even during emergencies, you should have protective measures in place. These changes could increase your operational expenditures, but they also reduce the possibility of an outage.  

Important considerations with paperless health records:  

Establish more than one internet network connection. In many cases you can virtually bond these connections together. If one were to go down the other(s) would still be available to keep you connected. 

Have a back-up generator. In nearly all scenarios, your operations will cease without power. For this reason, you should secure a generator for the most critical aspects of your paperless health records operations. 

Hardware inevitably fails, often at the worst possible times. SMART’s cloud solution takes your hardware concerns off the table. SMART operates a fully-redundant Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud environment which leverages layer upon layer of redundant technology. Failures are drastically reduced when the above measures are taken.

Prepare for disasters with automatic backups. As a 100% paperless chart, SMART’s cloud-based software holds all data. The backup is run every 30 seconds, therefore reducing the risk of data loss.  Having owned and operated clinics in the past, SMART is intimately familiar with what can happen if a clinic experiences a fire or other disaster. Had we not been paperless, electronic, and automatically backed-up we could have lost access to crucial information.

Risks cannot be eliminated but they can be managed. Be proactive and understand what measures can help to prevent adverse consequences. By doing so, your organization will greatly mitigate risk of data failure in emergency situations. Even potential risks can be identified before an emergency happens by analyzing and understanding the dangers associated. As a result, you ensure accessibility to your EHR/paperless chart.

Equipment investment 

Another deterrent to migrating 100% to paperless health records might be the investment in equipment. Equipment_Paperless-Health-Records With the expense of servers, PCs, signature pads, label printers, and pumps, it is easy to look the other way and avoid going 100% paperless. Unfortunately, the cons far outweigh the pros.

Additionally, States continue to demand better interfaces. However, this actually helps EHR users as they gain interoperability.

With SMART’s cloud-based solution, your EHR becomes an operational expenditure instead of a capital expenditure. Monthly billing for named users allows you to subscribe the number of users you need. Need more users? We can add them at any time. Too many? We can also remove them. 

“SMART integrates every facet of our clinic from dispensing, to counseling, to administration.”

– Paul J., Administrator (former),
Addiction Treatment Center of New England

Fear of change 

Sometimes what holds clinics back from moving 100% to paperless health records is the fear of change. Adjusting to a new system can be challenging. Especially for those accustomed to paper as their primary means of recorkeeping. SMART helps to mitigate these fears with our implementation process which is designed to get teams up and running quickly and with confidence. Once you commit to implementing an EHR, it is important to work with your vendor to ensure that your staff is informed throughout the process helping to avoid resistance and confusion. 

Successfully implementing paperless health records  

comprehensive-procedures-checklist_Paperless-Health-RecordsGoals and communication 

Successful implementations rely heavily upon continuous and clear communications between the EHR vendor and EHR users. Before the implementation begins, a solid foundation should be set by providing a clear understanding of the process that should be expected. Every member of both teams should fully understand all requirements and who owns which responsibilities. 

Next, having a comprehensive procedures checklist goes a long way toward keeping everyone on track with what tasks are due and what is upcoming. Part of the checklist procedure is to identify forms, templates, and systems settings. 

“They made us feel completely confident in the system in a week. They are all exceptional. And are wonderful, fun people too.”

– Heather, Clinical Director,
Acadia Healthcare 

Training and support 

Another important step is customizing comprehensive training before and after go-live. For our partners, these trainings are delivered both on-site and remotely by our team of training experts. Finally, after the implementation and training is complete, our Partner Support and Partner Services Teams take charge of the clinic’s ongoing care. 

“I really like the new SMART System. It makes our job that much easier. The trainers were all friendly and helpful. They made our transition to SMART very easy.”  

– Charity G., Nurse,
Pinnacle Treatment Centers


Advantages of having 100% paperless health records 


Overcoming staff opposition to going totally paperless can be a challenge. Shift your focus to educating about the benefits. You will find that in the end, that your staff is happier and more productive in a paperless environment. By promoting positivity, leadership can cultivate user’s perceptions. 

Top 10 benefits to clinics 

  1. Reduces redundancy of data entry. Everything is in the system and is only a few clicks away 
  2. Saves physical space and office supply costs without the need for a chart room 
  3. No more time wasted filing and searching for paper charts 
  4. Enables faster receipt of lab test results 
  5. Simplifies quality control with information that is organized and easy to find 
  6. Co-signatures on treatment plans, service delivery notes, medical orders, and forms can be submitted remotely reducing unnecessary travel time 
  7. Auto alerts and reminders help to ensure patients treatment needs are met on time 
  8. Optimizes admissions capacity with auto scheduling and pre-admissions screening 
  9. Maximizes revenue and decreases data entry with integrated insurance billing module 
  10. Better tools and technology improve communication, staff retention, and employee satisfaction. Insufficient technology can be a reason for employee burn out.   

“SMART provides real-time information that allows staff to feel confident in their clinical decisions.”

– Eileen, Director,
Boston Public Health

Top 10 benefits to enterprise organizations 

  1. Stores all your clinics’ information safely in one place Paperless-Health-Record-save-money
  2. Saves operational costs by decreasing the need for equipment upgrades, IT resources, and EHR updates 
  3. Creates uniformity and consistency across all OTP locations
  4. Establishes your corporate model of forms, services, and reporting 
  5. Reduces administrative costs by automating processing and reporting
  6. Simplifies insurance, self-pay account management, and reporting functions with data-entry-free billing 
  7. Scales to your needs allowing you to adjust size and performance with no downtime 
  8. Automatically and seamlessly makes updates and improvements to the system 
  9. Leverages the latest technologies (like the SMARTBridge™) 
  10. Integrates with billing systems and state reporting so there is no double entry of data 

What issues are most common amongst clinics that aren’t fully-paperless? 

Time and time again, we’ve seen EHR (electronic health records) users taking actions (or not taking actions) that hold them back from being truly 100% paperless. The need to continuously file paper patient charts may not seem like a big deal if it’s what you’ve always done, but think about the alternative: 

Paperless-health-records-save-timeOrganizational efficiency 

Organizationally, partially paperless clinics could be even more efficient. Filling out, organizing, filing, then later going back to dig through patient records eats up a ton of time that could be spent on patient care. 

Moreover, communication efficiency can also be improved when everyone at the clinic has access to the same patient information at the same time. If there is a development with a patient, which is not noted immediately and electronically, there could be important treatment-related information missed by another clinician. 

Quality control 

Auditing Paperless Health RecordsWhen a 100% paperless clinic needs to switch to a new form, once implemented, the new form is automatically used across all patient files. In a partially paperless environment, you may find yourself having to chase down employees who are still using old forms. 

Managing services can be challenging regardless of how you keep your records. However, this process can be vastly improved by doing it all electronically. For example, SMART’s EHR can be set to schedule all regulatory services as soon as the Admit and Discharge buttons are clicked.  This feature enables clinical and medical staff to run their own Service Due Reports. Management teams have the ability to run quality control reports to ensure patients are receiving the right services. 

Auditing paperless health records is also simplified when everything is easy to navigate and accessible electronically. Since everything is remotely accessible, quality control teams do not have to travel to the clinic.  Moreover, the QC reports in SMART’s EHR make it easy to focus on problem areas. 

Data collection standards 

Creating service type templates can greatly improve data collection. You can build in the questions you would like your treatment teams to document for each service delivered. Additionally, statistical and patient population data collection is easily accessible. This makes completing grants as well as state and internal reporting much more efficient. No more sorting through and keeping Excel documents up-to-date. 

What are some benefits of 100% paperless health records that clinics often overlook? 

Once you are running with paperless health records, ensure that you are using all of the features available. This will help you be even more efficient. 

Create templates wherever possible: 

  • Service type templates save your teams from writing repetitive notes. And they will see the exact data they need to gather. 
  • Release of information templates allows your team to choose a pre-populated agency release template. This saves time on data entry and disclosure tracking. 
  • Agency referral lists via SMART’s QSOA feature allows your team to quickly find appropriate referral sources and to track the expiring agreements. 

Leverage your EHR’s secure cloud environment to build your key business rules for: 

Integrate your billing processes 

Outsourcing a treatment program’s insurance billing to a third-party traditionally costs more than processing it in-house. SMART’s paperless billing module gives users the ability to successfully manage the revenue cycle in-house. 

Experience matters 

SMART’s 100% paperless health records software has more than 25 years of experience serving opioid treatment programs. SMART has the unique ability to relate to the day-to-day challenges of medication-assisted treatment professionals because we’ve worked there too. President and CEO David L. Piccoli, II, was inspired to help his family’s network of opioid treatment facilities go paperless in the early 90’s. Since then, SMART’s EHR continues to grow with all our partners as they expand and transition more locations to have 100% paperless health records. 

Want to learn more about SMART’s EHR? Watch the video tour!