Maintaining a patient-centric focus in the paperless clinic


Paperless clinics are practices (hospitals, offices, and other facilities) that utilize a technology platform to create and manage electronic health records (EHR) through AIenabled automated workflow, document management, security, and storage.

December 1, 202312 mins
patient focused

Paperless clinics – the manifestation of transformation

Paperless clinics are practices (hospitals, offices, and other facilities) that utilize a technology platform to create and manage electronic health records (EHR) through AIenabled automated workflow, document management, security, and storage.

The goal of paperless clinics is, as one would expect, to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and, most importantly, deliver better patient outcomes.

Consider the following use case:

A middle-aged person visits their primary care physician (PCP) complaining of sharp abdominal pain. After checking in at the front desk, the person is escorted to an examination room where vitals are taken and logged.

The PCP performs an examination and is concerned with the location and intensity of the pain. Because of this, the doctor orders an X-ray, which shows as inconclusive. The doctor follows this up with an ultrasound, revealing a ruptured appendix

The patient is immediately transported to the local hospital, where an emergency appendectomy is performed. Because of elevated vital signs, the patient is held overnight as a precautionary measure.

The following day, the patient is discharged, along with a prescription for antibiotics and pain medications. They are ordered bed rest for the week, with orders to return to their PCP for a follow-up.

In the above example, the patient traveling from a doctor’s office to a number of locations with physical records and films is an example of how 400,000 cases of patient misinformation happen per year.

Conversely, the patient experience is vastly improved due to paperless clinics. With the paperless clinic, patient administration is more accurate, secure, efficient, and integrated. Instead of carrying films and records from office to office to office, all artifacts and patient information follow the patient as they move from doctor’s office to radiology clinic to hospital to pharmacy.

Additionally, the requirement for several technologies tightly integrated into a single framework or platform is apparent in the above use case. First and foremost is the need for a workflow automation tool clinics can use to manage the patient journey. This workflow automation tool must be built into an application interface that can ingest patient data in virtually every format. Whether that data originated in the physical or digital world.

This workflow platform must be open in architecture. Patient data—from demographics and vitals to history to relevant attachments—must be securely shared with third parties, as necessary, whether this is forwarding the patient's information to a waiting surgeon at the hospital or a pharmacy for a prescription.

The technology behind the paperless clinic

AI is a critical element of the paperless clinic that can help determine causality and correlation. It can help ensure that the appropriate data is shared with the appropriate facilities and verify that patients receive appropriate care based on critical patient information. While there are many workflow automation tools that a healthcare provider can employ, Moor Insights & Strategy (MI&S) believes AI is a must-have. Conversely, workflow automation tools that do not use AI should not get the same level of consideration.

Like AI, security is a critical element for workflow automation. This is especially true when considering the regulations governing data in the healthcare industry. Patient data must be locked down from the point of generation throughout its entire life—at use, in flight, and at rest. MI&S advises organizations to double-down on security and not compromise when evaluating technologies to support their paperless clinics. Protecting data across its life should be a design point informing every platform element.

Finally, the difference between good and great paperless clinic solutions is not technology. Many companies are good at developing technology. Instead, it's the people who stand behind the technology. Depth and breadth of experience informs product design, requiring technically astute staff that can translate business needs into software. However, understanding the nuances that go along with managing historical paper records also makes an impact. Knowing the challenges of securely sharing, storing, and archiving customer data in the physical realm informs how to instantiate such a solution in the digital realm.

Companies claiming to “do it all” with the click of an easy button without customers or experience to speak of should be avoided.

Iron mountain powers the paperless clinic

One company uniquely positioned to support the needs of healthcare—with openness of architecture, deeply rooted security, and the ability to adhere to the stringent yet everchanging regulatory requirements at the federal and local level—is Iron Mountain. Iron Mountain is perhaps the original information management company. For the past 70 years, the company has specialized in the storage, archiving, and security of over 95% of Fortune 1000 companies.

In the healthcare industry, the company has an equally impressive track record supporting some of the largest healthcare providers across North America and Europe. Iron Mountain has over 2,000 customers in the healthcare industry, supporting over 850 million patient records, over 1 billion medical images, and 1 billion pathology slides.

Iron Mountain is especially unique in the way its business has transformed with the healthcare industry. A company that started by managing physical assets—the original form of data for the largest companies around the world—embraced technology to both reorient its business and align with the needs of its customers. Physical storage and archiving were complemented by digital storing and archiving, which has evolved into available cloud storage services.

The company has developed a technology portfolio through in-house innovation, partnerships, and acquisitions, enabling it to marry decades of experience managing data with rich technical capabilities. Because of this, MI&S sees Iron Mountain as a company that healthcare organizations must consider as part of their transformation to a paperless clinic.

Insight - how iron mountain drives efficiency

Iron Mountain has experienced a seemingly continuous innovation cycle to transform its service to the healthcare industry. Perhaps its most valuable asset is InSight, the company’s SaaS-based intelligent document processing and electronic record solution. The InSight platform focuses on data sharing, visualization, deeper insights, and workflow automation powered by machine learning.

When talking to IT and business leaders in healthcare—even some that have executed digital transformation strategies and use electronic health record management systems—MI&S has heard of frustrations around the decentralized, disjointed approach (silos) to creating and managing different patient health records. This can result in patient data being residing in many different silos across a providers’ network, not easily accessible by healthcare providers.

The cloud-native architecture of InSight simplifies the process of tearing down these silos. It categorizes ingested data and uses metadata to feed machine learning, making sharing relevant patient data with the right stakeholders at the right time easy and automatic. Further, unstructured data such as X-ray and MRI images, provider notes, and more can add context and insights where they previously just represented uncorrelated raw information.

Iron Mountain's capabilities are truly unique in a market filled with companies claiming to have product differentiation. The company leverages a depth of experience across a range of healthcare providers located around the globe. The results are solutions specifically tailored to each provider's needs, along with a rich practice in deploying and optimizing solutions across the entire patient value chain—from provider to provider to pharmacy.

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