Streamlining healthcare with multifunctional devices and advanced workflows
By Dennis Amorosano, Canon U.S.A., August 2011
Healthcare providers generally face some of the most complex workflow hurdles of any industry.
From HR to the ER, much has been said on the topic of workflow over the years and undoubtedly, healthcare providers have heard numerous promises from technology providers claiming to help better manage their complex document needs. Faced with myriad new federal regulations, privacy concerns and pressure to reduce administrative costs, today's healthcare providers are looking for solutions as the industry continues to address this ever-changing landscape.
What is workflow?
At the risk of oversimplifying, "workflow" is a series of tasks or steps designed to complete a function. Workflows vary from the simple, made up of one party or device, to the complicated, which can involve multiple steps, personnel and device types.
Healthcare providers generally face some of the most complex workflow hurdles of any industry, from government regulations requiring patient health information safeguards to the integration of electronic patient records across multiple departments or facilities and communication with external providers, including pharmacies, insurance companies and more. Managing workflows can be an enormously complex endeavor.
From complex to commonplace: Streamlining workflows
The good news is that despite this level of complexity, technology exists to significantly simplify these processes. For example, many healthcare providers are utilizing hybrid workflows — part paper, part electronic — as they progress through the process of moving to electronic medical records (EMRs). As they look to integrate their paper forms and medical records into content repositories, they are faced with a manual process that can be prone to errors. These workflows can be automated and streamlined through one-touch workflows accessible directly on the touch screen of their multifunction printer (MFP), which is not only easy to use, but allows businesses to gain efficiencies through increased productivity by reducing the steps it takes to enter these records and easily find them once they have been properly indexed.
Streamlining common workflows, including patient admission and discharge, distributing lab requests and permissions, printing common forms and sending prescriptions to the right pharmacy — with one touch — can provide healthcare providers and their patients with enormous benefits. Employees will spend less time completing administrative paperwork and more time focusing on patient care. Data integrity and security are improved, and the entire organization can become significantly more efficient.
Security and privacy
While increasing productivity and gaining efficiencies can add to the bottom line, healthcare providers need to ensure they properly safeguard the sensitive personal information entrusted to them by their patients. With printers, scanners and multifunctional devices ever present, it is imperative to closely examine how these devices are utilized, as the cost of a HIPAA violation or security breach can be damaging to both the reputation and bottom line of your business.
In considering information security, key questions that must be examined include: Are devices secure, or can anyone walk up and make a copy of a medical record? Do all users have access to the same features, or are restrictions set to limit who has access to copy and send features? To address these questions, many healthcare providers are implementing new authentication solutions — password and card based — to lock down their devices.
Building upon the physical access controls, another critical benefit of digitizing workflows is improved data security. By using workflow software, medical providers can ensure that data is protected and that only authorized employees can input, view, transmit and print patient records. In a secure printing environment, jobs are only printed when the user arrives at the print area and confirms his or her identity, creating a trace to the patient's information. Using multi-factor authentication technology, jobs can be held until they are approved by selected individuals or the user authenticates prior to releasing the job. This ensures that other users can't accidentally walk away with sensitive materials.
Inherent in any sales proposition is the promise of ROI. But, most medical providers, both large and small, find it difficult to know exactly what is possible from advanced workflow solutions. The truth is that every medical provider will achieve different cost savings, but flexible MFP technology can maximize savings through the application of analytic tools that help monitor device usage leading to the implementation of customized cost-savings programs.
For example, once a baseline for an organization's print behavior can be established, setting up options to default print settings to duplex, monochrome printing will help an organization save on both toner and paper costs, not to mention help meet environmental sustainability goals. Rules-based print routing can be established to ensure that print jobs are directed to the most efficient devices for large or small print jobs. High-print users or departments can be identified, allowing equipment to be right-sized with greater information and visibility into print costs.
With the rapid advances in document management technologies, the promise of streamlined workflows becomes more accessible each day. And, as the administrative demands placed on healthcare providers continue to increase, today's document management technologies make it easier than ever to implement one-touch workflows into a broad range of medical environments. With efficiency, security and cost-savings bases covered, there has never been a better time for medical providers to embrace the process of streamlining workflows by tightly connecting their MFP technology with software and