Document imaging helps providers digitize patient records

June 25, 2015

Since 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) have set the stage for physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers to implement electronic health records systems (EHRs). While fast-forwarding American healthcare into the digital age is an important aim of both laws, the ultimate goal is to establish Meaningful Use requirements for digitizing information to improve patient care and outcomes, and portability of patient information.

Eligible providers meeting EHR and Meaningful Use requirements (established in three stages) can receive $44,000 in Medicare incentive payments over five years or $65,000 over six years under Medicaid. The incentive program began in 2011 and will end in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Mike O’Leary, CEO, Ambir Technologies

For those healthcare providers who haven’t yet adopted certified EHR systems and cannot demonstrate meeting Meaningful Use requirements, they will see reductions in their Medicare Part B reimbursements by 1 percent this year and will see further 1 percent reductions each subsequent year of delay up to a maximum of 5 percent.

In addition to Medicare penalties, there could be penalties associated with individual state mandates. Furthermore, healthcare providers who do not meet requirements run the risk of engendering inefficiencies in delivering patient care when interfacing with other providers who have adopted EHRs, payment delays in dealing with healthcare insurers, undermining portability of medical information, difficulties in assembling family medical histories, complications in establishing legal health records, and hampering patient access to their information.

There are more than enough reasons to go digital. The challenge is what to do with patient healthcare records and other information residing on paper?

While some older records can remain on paper, those with relevance need to be in digital form. There are two ways to digitize paper-based records: Create new ones digitally by inputting information, or convert paper records to digital files through document imaging scanners. In either case, most healthcare provider offices do not have the bandwidth to do either.

Enter Colorado Hi-Tech Solutions of Colorado Springs. Colorado Hi-Tech Solutions is a document imaging reseller that has established a service application to digitally scan paper-based health records into digital files that can be uploaded to EHRs, accelerating healthcare provider offices’ abilities to meet Meaningful Use requirements.

“We provide scanning services to a number of local physician and other healthcare providers, digitally converting up to 20 years of patient medical records,” says Brent Watson, President of Colorado Hi-Tech Solutions.

Colorado Hi-Tech Solutions has several employees working at physician, healthcare provider, and hospital sites performing the scanning services. The company works via a monthly charge to scan and upload the files into cloud-based and premise-based EHRs and EMRs.

“We literally scan boxes of healthcare records at a time using Ambir ImageScan Pro DS 960 AS desktop document scanners,” Watson says. “We are talking about making a huge number of scans. For example, we have one account where we have performed more than a quarter of a million scans with a desktop scanner, requiring the client to provide us only a desk from which to work and to keep those pallets of boxes coming. Even after 250,000-plus scans, we are only halfway through the paper records.”

Colorado Hi-Tech Solutions integrates each scanner to the EHR each provider uses. As the Ambir document scanners use industry-standard TWAIN drivers for operation, integration is fairly straightforward.

“Our services are quite cost effective as we operate at the client’s site using desktop document scanners doing the job usually requiring commercial production scanners typically found in document imaging service bureaus, eliminating expenses to clients for transporting records to service bureaus and of course, storing paper records at either a certified document storage facility or, far more riskier, a private storage locker, which believe it or not, some do,” Watson says.

In recent months, Colorado Hi-Tech Solutions has seen significant upticks in demand for the services from healthcare providers. Watson attributes it to clients striving to meet Meaningful Use Stage 2 proposed regulations, which include providing for patients to have access to their healthcare records via patient portals.

“The regulations for healthcare providers to adopt certified EHR systems and those specific to Meaningful Use have brought digitization and information management governance to the healthcare space for bettering patient care and outcomes. The need to digitize paper-based patient medical records and information is great, as we all benefit,” Watson says.

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