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and eliminate redundant, error-prone steps in complex pro- cesses. When hospitals and healthcare organizations choose to apply ECM as a true enterprise solution in all three areas – clinical, fi nancial and administrative – they see a return greater than the sum of the parts.

Where to start

Even for those choosing an immediate, organization-wide enterprise deployment, implementing ECM in every single department simultaneously is impractical, if not impossible. The processes are too numerous and complex for such an approach. Instead, it makes sense to identify those de- partments and processes where ECM can do the most signifi cant good. More- over, this approach works well should an organization

Susan deCathelineau, M.S., RHIA, is senior manager, healthcare solutions for Hyland Software. For more on Hyland Software solutions: www.rsleads.com/203ht-205

choose to purchase and deploy an ECM solution incremen- tally. In fact, many hospitals start with a smaller initial deploy- ment only to grow into an enterprise solution over time. In choosing which processes and departments to target

fi rst, some commonalities emerge. Areas relying on large amounts of transactional content present a good opportunity to start, especially when processes involve numerous repeat- able steps. Managing and processing invoices in accounts payable is a good example. Scan or capture an electronic invoice, link it to the fi nancial record and route it electroni- cally to the appropriate person for approval. Doing so saves time and money.

But it’s not always as simple as looking at the quantity of paper you’d be replacing – or eliminating. Sometimes it makes more sense to look at the gap between your staff’s processes and the information they need, factoring in the resulting frustration in locating and accessing that information. If ECM saves physicians time by no longer having to track down a patient’s chart or sparing them from heading over to HIM to sign a defi ciency in person, great. If it helps them become a believer in your EMR and broader EHR strategy (as it often does), so much the better.

Taking ECM beyond the department level In healthcare, the responsibility for a given process lies with a specifi c department. The execution of that process, however, does not occur solely within the boundaries of that department. For example, analyzing charts, assigning defi ciencies and completing medical record documentation is managed within the HIM department. But in facilitating this process, a HIM analyst will often need to work with physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers. Moreover, so many processes are intricately interdepen- dent. The content a patient registrar gathers at the point of registration – a process in itself – directly impacts both billing and care delivery. An ECM deployment designed to

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support any given process or department must bear these considerations in mind.

ECM’s core value proposition lies in its promise to con- nect people with the content they need to do their jobs, unifying disparate, isolated systems within and beyond the organization. Taken at an enterprise level, ECM does far more than unify people with content under the confi nes of a given process and system. Instead, it transcends a process or department. Rather than bridging the gaps among content, systems and staff, it bridges the gaps among interdependent processes. Everyone can see the information and part of the process that’s relevant to them, and everyone can access it when needed. And you have to store that content only once in a single, shared repository.

Key considerations in an enterprise deployment Essential to unifying disparate systems at the enterprise level is ECM’s ability to integrate with your key applications. ECM solutions rely on a variety of methods to accomplish this, including HL7, API-level integration and even non- programmatic approaches. Being able to choose from a variety of options would be best, simply because what works well for your EMR system might not work as well with your ERP or billing system. Bottom line: ECM cannot live up to its potential if it cannot integrate well with the systems you have in place – or plan to implement in the future. For an enterprise-level solution, here are some additional points to consider. The solution must be capable of growing as your organization grows, functioning effectively beyond the walls of a particular facility. It must be fl exible, supporting your unique processes while helping you adapt to changes. The people who design and implement the technology should be familiar with the processes that the solution will automate – on both an organizational and community level. On a prag- matic level, enterprise licensing can offer an opportunity for signifi cant fi nancial savings, allowing you to take advantage of the same ECM platform without having to pay for additional licenses with each new departmental deployment. And IT staff benefi t from supporting a single system, as opposed to unique ones for different departments.

Measuring value

An enterprise ECM solution can prove its value, but you have to know where to look – and what to measure. Before implementation, document key costs that you expect your ECM solution to address. Start with printing and storage costs, shipping expenses and staff time spent tracking down information. Quantify everything possible, but don’t be afraid to look at things that might seem more subjective, such as physician satisfaction. When done right, you’ll be able to make the case to ensure your ECM solution is delivering on its promise of reducing costs, heightening effi ciencies and, most importantly, setting up your healthcare organization for long-term, sustainable content management success. HMT

HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY March 2012 21

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