What’s the Difference?
The difference between paper charts and having 100% paperless health records 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. Also important to note, scanning hand-written patient information also means it’s not searchable and deriving metrics would be a tedious, manual process. The data is “invisible” to a computer if it’s hand-written. Whether you are partially paperless or are considering going paperless, it’s important to understand how to get the most out of your record keeping-system.
What issues are most common amongst clinics that aren’t fully-paperless?
Time and time again, we’ve seen EHR 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.
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.
In a 100% paperless environment, everyone at the clinic has access to the same up-to-the-minute 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.
When a 100% paperless clinic switches to a new form, it is automatically utilized across all patient files. In a partially paperless environment, different staff members might be using different versions of the same form.
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 also 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 available electronically. Since everything is accessible remotely, quality control teams don’t need to travel to the clinic. Moreover, the QC reports in SMART’s EHR make it easy to located and 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 usable. 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 is holding you back from having 100% paperless health records?
Access and outage concerns
Often there is a fear of not being able to access electronic patient charts when the power is out or a system is down. Fortunately, you can protect against this and run at optimal efficiency by implementing safeguards, like the ones mentioned below, to reduce the possibility of an outage.
Important considerations with paperless health records:
Establish more than one internet network connection. Configure a redundant Internet connection to ensure that there is one connection to the internet at all times.
Have a back-up generator. In nearly all scenarios, your operations will cease in a power outage. For this reason, you should secure a generator for the most critical aspects of your clinic and, especially, with paperless health records operations.
Hardware inevitably fails, seemingly at the worst possible times. SMART’s Cloud-Based EHR, powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), takes your hardware concerns off the table. SMART operates a fully-redundant AWS cloud environment which leverages layer upon layer of redundant technology. With these measures in place, the odds and impact of a connection failure are minimal.
Prepare for disasters with automatic backups. As a 100% paperless chart, SMART’s EHR software secures all data in the cloud. Backups run every 30 seconds 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. Being paperless, with automatic backups means we avoided losing access to crucial information.
Another deterrent to migrating 100% to paperless health records might be the expense of servers, PCs, signature pads, label printers, pumps, etc. making it is easy to put off the transition. However, the drawbacks of not being 100% paperless far outweigh the costs of transitioning. With SMART’s cloud-based solution, your EHR becomes an operational expenditure instead of a capital expenditure. Monthly billing allows you to subscribe only the number of users you need and we can adjust as your needs change.
“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
Overcoming staff opposition to change can be a challenge. The first step is shifting your focus to educating staff about the benefits and added productivity of a paperless environment. Leadership can ease the transition by promoting positivity and cultivating user perceptions.
Even so, adjusting to a new system can still be challenging; especially for those accustomed to paper as their primary means of record-keeping. 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
Goals 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 what responsibilities.
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.”Heather, Clinical Director, Acadia Healthcare
Training and support
Another important step is customizing comprehensive training before and after go-live. For our partners, training is delivered both on-site and remotely by our team of training experts. After implementation and training is complete, our Partner Support and Partner Success 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