HealthWare Systems Blog

Fax Document Management: Focus on Rural Health Care Facilities

Posted on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

Outdated fax technology and physician order management are costing hospitals thousands, every month. In particular, small and rural health care facilities are wasting resources on fax station administration, printing, scanning, follow-ups, rejections, filing, etc. And they’re unlikely to eliminate fax-based documents any time soon.  (Referring physicians are still dependent on faxed physician orders, not to mention hospitals’ fax exchanges with insurance companies and other third parties.)

 

But hospitals can eliminate the risks and inefficiencies that old-school faxing creates. And in most cases, the technology and expertise required to do it cost less than the consumables alone (ink, copy paper) associated with physical fax machines and printouts.

We asked Brian Schnitker, Product Manager at HealthWare Systems Inc., to walk us through what’s happening inside today’s small and rural health care systems. Here’s what he told us:

The Problem

In our “big-box store” culture, we’re trained to assume the biggest, best-known players carry all the tools we need. But when it comes to health IT and EHR vendors, the big guys haven’t solved everything—certainly not for rural health care facilities and critical access hospitals.  Although some have added CPOE (computerized physician order entry) modules to their electronic health record products, inbound physician orders/faxed documents still need to be collected, scanned, and uploaded manually.

“There are three ways hospitals are handling this now,” said Schnitker. “A lot of sites I’ve gone to are still doing paper. The second way: they have some electronic functionality in place, but it usually amounts to a PDF being generated and stored on a shared network. That means someone has to manually rename and save each file. The third approach I see is like the second, except the files are dumped into email, which is equally inefficient while posing huge security risks.”

The Solution

Mindful of these hospital realities, Schnitker points to ActiveXCHANGE, a unique document management solution that acts as a central image repository for electronic faxes as well as traditional fax exchanges (primarily physician orders, insurance forms, test results, etc.).  XCHANGE offers automatic indexing, simple search/retrieval capabilities, image encryption, permission-based access, and HIPAA-compliant audit trails. It also builds a workflow behind each type of document, configurable to suit any set of processes a facility wants to attach.

Finally, XCHANGE is unlike other document management solutions in its release engine function. XCHANGE can “release” files to any third-party system (including an EHR), so there’s no more manual work to bridge the disconnect between fax machines/fax servers and hospitals’ recordkeeping systems. In fact, XCHANGE is already being used in dozens of seamless health IT system integrations.

The Ideal Partner

Whether you’re ready to read actual success stories about hospitals using ActiveXCHANGE , or you’re still researching multiple products and partners, keep in mind that fax document management can’t be solved with an out-of-the-box tool. You need to choose a provider who delivers more than just first-rate software; look for a consultative partner, who is willing to listen and support you well beyond a signed contract.

On your end, this means bringing the partner into your facility, so they can learn your processes and challenges, and then configure document indexing and workflows accordingly (if they’re willing and able to configure their products at all). It also means connecting partners with your end users, for education and training.   “We’re not just installing,” explained Schnitker. “We’re knee deep in defining the process—looking at what the facility or department is doing today versus what they want to be doing in the long run.”

At the end of the day, a true document management solution should do more than just replace your physical file cabinets with digital storage space; it should fundamentally improve the way your teams operate and the experiences your patients have.

The First Steps

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem… But when it comes to HIT buying, the list of subsequent steps is often ten miles long. No question, HIT buying cycles have gotten longer and more complex. More stakeholders are getting looped into the decision-making process. Budgets are more closely guarded. And overall, hospitals and health systems are more risk-averse/regulation-bound.

In the case of fax document management, buying doesn’t have to involve a full IT committee—especially considering the size of the investment. (Did you know: when 10 or more people are involved in a software purchase, the decision takes at least four months, 80% of the time?)  If your small or rural health care facility is wasting time and money on faxing and filing, start outlining cost-saving opportunities for your decision makers today.