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Bridging the gap between digital and paper records

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   September 19, 2011

An EHR with integrated DYMO document labeling boosts workflow and reduces errors for a six-location, 16-physician orthopedic practice.

Electronic health record (EHR) solutions and automated billing systems enable medical providers to streamline the paper trail of vital information that documents every aspect of their engagement with patients. A 2009 National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) survey found that 44 percent of physicians reported using EHR solutions, which is nearly triple the 2007 findings. This percentage is expected to rise as more medical providers take advantage of federal stimulus funding available for those that can prove meaningful use of EHRs.

Making digital and paper records work together

While streamlining the process is a key goal, reducing errors in medical records management is also critical to any medical practice, because record errors can lead to mistakes in patient treatment. Each year, medical errors cost the U.S. over $37 billion, according to the Institute of Medicine. Also, billing errors are found on as many as 80 percent of patient bills, according to the Medical Billing Advocates of America.

In spite of impressive advances in EHR technology, practice managers still face challenges in integrating digital records with new paper documents and records, which are not yet on an EHR system. Practice management software providers are continually looking for solutions to bridge that gap. athenahealth Inc., a leading provider of cloud-based practice management, electronic health record and patient communication services, has hands-on experience with the challenge of integrating disparate medical documents.

"Even medical offices with advanced digital records systems have to deal with paper documents — like a patient's history, new prescriptions, lab results — which arrive each day," explains Derek Dunn, director of process innovation at athenahealth. "Our job is to ensure that they are added into the system efficiently, without errors or delay."

 Simplified print customization and easy installation optimize document integration

Recently, athenahealth planned to further optimize digital processing for clients, including Atlanta-area Southern Orthopaedic Specialists (SOS), a full-service, six-location, 16-physician practice specializing in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine. athenahealth and IntraHealth Group, which provides management services to a wide range of healthcare organizations, helped SOS implement EHR and digital record keeping in 2007. A key component of the implementation was to incorporate a label-writing solution that would optimize the method of accurately integrating new documents into athenahealth's cloud-based EHR platform.

After examining a number of alternatives, athenahealth and IntraHealth selected the DYMO LabelWriter 450. SOS has implemented the plug-and-play deployment of 35 DYMO LabelWriters throughout each of their office locations in areas like patient check-in, scheduling, records management and physical therapy. The medical group is leveraging the scalability of DYMO LabelWriters, using them to improve recordkeeping workflow and accuracy.

For example, a new patient with personal and insurance information already stored in the SOS database brings in new information that must be integrated into the health record. Within minutes, a medical clerk can verify the accuracy of the new information, use the DYMO LabelWriter to print out an adhesive, 2-D barcode that captures all relevant information, and then scan the forms into the EHR database — thus ensuring that those documents are accurately added into the patient's electronic file.

"We processed more than a million barcoded DYMO labels in the last quarter of 2010 alone, accounting for about 18 percent of our document volume during that period," says Martin Hettenkofer, practice administrator, SOS. "Now all components of a patient's file bear the same barcode and are easily and correctly filed away, so we don't have to worry about errors and don't have people searching for a new document that hasn't been filed."

"We needed a solution that was optimized for Web-based applications, and the DYMO LabelWriter Framework had the multi-browser, cross-platform API that was easy to work with, and a robust script library that allowed us considerable flexibility in creating custom label outputs," says Dunn.

As a result, DYMO LabelWriters truly make the workflow smoother. And that means less time spent finding or correcting problems and more time spent helping patients.

LabelWriter 450 advantages

  • Quickly and seamlessly integrates into any custom application.
  • Uses thermal technology instead of ink or toner, saving on costs and maintenance.
  • Connects to a PC or Mac quickly via USB and is ready to print in minutes.
  • Has built-in barcode symbologies for every major system.

Application advantages

  • Integrated label printer with custom barcode generator streamlines record updating and reduces costly errors.
  • Software Development Framework enables a fast, efficient and fully customizable labeling solution to any EHR platform.
  • Low cost and ease of installation streamlines deployment.
  • Medical practices gain improved accuracy and faster records processing with lower cost of installation and management.


 

For more information on DYMO LabelWriter solutions: http://sites.dymo.com/Pages/home.aspx?locale=enUS.

For more information on athenahealth solutions: http://www.athenahealth.com.


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