What you need to know about document management in healthcare

The world may be going paperless, but the medical world has yet to get that memo (printed memo only, thank you). Hospitals, like any other large white collar operation, swim in paper. Only their paper has multiple government regulatory agencies watching for mistakes.

That said, the government also demands healthcare organizations move to electronic records and correspondence as well. Multifunction printers with the intelligence to power workflow processes improve efficiency and, with proper security, comply with all relevant regulations. But the right printer makes all the difference.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations drive most of the security rules for patient records. Printers in health organizations must satisfy the requirements for security, accountability, and auditing to satisfy HIPAA regulations. The right printer vendor will also support and interface with EMR (Electronic Medical Records) systems.

Security, mandatory in healthcare, requires printers to authenticate users, keep stored information away from non-authorized users, and protect printouts. Managing printers one at a time will not be enough to meet these requirements, so look for a vendor with comprehensive management software able to monitor and control hundreds of printers from a central software console.

Larger MFP units use internal hard drives to store data before printing, and to keep common documents and share them among authorized users. These systems must have strict security to protect that data. The better systems will have an option to erase and overwrite stored data based on configuration settings, such as after every job or at the end of the day. Even better systems will have an option of easily removing the hard disk for safe storage.

Of course, no trip to the doctor would be complete without filling out multiple paper forms. Scanning those forms is good, but integration with EMR systems is better. Verify your printer vendor has this capability.

Paper forms aren't all that needs to be scanned and integrated. Intelligent MFPs from up-to-date vendors will also handle lab test results, consult notes, historical records, and other electronic content. Integration with popular Electronic Health Record software means the printer will provide the best of paper and electronic workflow, and be the bridge between the two as regulations push doctors and hospitals ever more digital.

The right printer won't cure you, but it won't cause you any grief, either. And when federal patient privacy issues are under control, your doctor may have that extra time needed for your diagnosis and treatment.

This story, "What you need to know about document management in healthcare" was originally published by ITworld.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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