In working closely with CIO’s and other key health IT professionals in various hospital settings, there is a very common question we get asked here at FormFast: “Why does my hospital need a dedicated electronic forms solution when I have an EHR?”
Hospitals implement EHRs with highly specific objectives in mind, they are often surprised to discover paper documentation still lingers in many critical areas. This problem has left many health leaders trying to reconcile the notion that they aren’t as paperless as they thought they would be, even after spending millions of dollars on their EHR implementation.
Due to other often higher priority items an EHR system is put in place to address, clinical forms are often put on the back-burner when it comes to the EHR implementation process. However, now that most hospitals have the core components of the electronic health record in place, addressing existing paper processes is becoming more important to healthcare leadership.
In fact, HIMSS Analytics conducted a survey on topics of interest to HIMSS 2016 attendees, in which 53.4% of those survey responded that EHR enhancements topped their list of initiatives. For stakeholders seeking to improve efficiency, standardization, and compliance, eliminating remaining pre-printed paper forms is viewed as a natural next step in their clinical documentation strategy.
After an EHR implementation, many healthcare leaders find themselves with the following two realizations.
- We need to make automating ALL documentation a priority. According to a 2014 study from the University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine, medical knowledge is doubling every three years currently and is projected to double every 73 days by 2020. While the information confined to paper documents will most likely get attached to the patient’s record (eventually), someone still has to manually file them, or scan them. It should come as no surprise that these manual processes leave room for error and risk, and can slow the speed of care.
2. We need to find the best solution to complement our EHR. While EHR systems are focused primarily on getting the medical chart into an electronic format, there are vital documentation processes they do not address. Informed consent forms and other types of ancillary clinical documentation (i.e. physical therapy, behavioral health, laboratory, anesthesiology, labor & deliver, sleep labs, etc.) often remain paper-based.
But, just how big of a problem is paper in clinical areas? Today, many hospitals still rely on paper to capture clinical documentation, including one of the vital forms of documentation that exists in a health setting: the informed consent. In a survey of HIM Directors from Epic hospitals, 76.5% reported they are still using paper consent forms. They have the patients or their family sign them, and then sending the signed paper to HIM for scanning and adding to the EHR. (2014 Midwest Informatics, LLC report)
Paper consents can result in some big issues for a healthcare organization. Failure to obtain adequate informed consent and to document that consent can result in a tort claim in negligence or battery and put the provider at risk for failure to meet a CMS or a Joint Commission accreditation standard or a licensure action. Yet, 10 percent of surgical procedures are delayed due to this missing piece of paper. As this research from JAMA Surgery shows, this problem (which is estimated to cost hospitals $580,000 each year) is not one that can be overlooked.
Health leaders have three main options to consider when faced with this issue post EHR implementation.
- Option #1: Do nothing. Continue to use paper forms and manually scan the documents in the EHR.
The problem? The cost of doing nothing can’t be ignored. While the system of manually scanning has been in place for decades, and has (in theory) worked, the process still leads to large overhead expenses, lost documents, manual errors and loss of productivity. This frustrates IT, HIM and clinical staff who expect better processes considering their time invested in an EHR implementation.
- Option #2: Build form interfaces in the EHR.
The problem? Most health systems simply can’t justify the time and expense of having costly EHR developers create all of their forms as interfaces. Healthcare organizations are realizing this option will cost them more in expenses from the EHR vendor.
- Option #3: Find a better way to capture clinical data by implementing a dedicated electronic forms solution to complement your EHR.
The solution: With the right electronic forms strategy, it is possible to digitize the remaining forms in a healthcare organization. Electronic “Smart Forms” offer capabilities not possible with traditional documentation.
No matter what electronic health record system your hospital uses, FormFast can serve to enhance your existing EHR environment. FormFast offers EHR integration to maintain the integrity of clinical information received from the HIS and provides new ways to capture data, streamline workflow and supplement your EHR. With more than 20 years exclusively focused on healthcare needs and over 1000 healthcare clients, FormFast is considered the industry leader in electronic forms solutions.
By developing a partnership with FormFast, hospitals can achieve new levels of operational efficiency and productivity, allowing them to concentrate on their core mission: delivering quality care.
Key takeaway: The time to implement a forms management solution is NOW. It is important for HIT decision makers to know that while a successful EHR implementation is a major milestone on the journey to becoming a paperless hospital, a dedicated eForms solution will help hospitals take operational efficiency the extra mile while leaving no paper trail behind.
Contact FormFast to learn how we can help your organization unleash the full potential of your EHR with our best-in-class forms management solution.