Maturing your Content Management Strategy to Support your EMR

Doctor writes on an electronic pad device while holding a stethoscopeWhile we see many healthcare organizations using document management/imaging (DMI) systems, a cohesive, enterprise approach is still elusive. Many healthcare organizations have started with the document management component of their electronic medical record (EMR) or other niche systems. Because these are often limited to simple storage and retrieval, organizations often wind up using multiple niche systems in various departments. These systems don’t usually share information well with each other, if at all, nor with other key health information technology (HIT) applications, creating silos of information.

These silos make it impossible to take a comprehensive approach to content across the organization, making them unable to support a more comprehensive EMR – crucial to patient care initiatives. Healthcare organizations need to mature their document management solutions so that they have all patient information available when and where it is needed from within the EMR itself.

To do that, they need to move from document management to enterprise content management (ECM). While these two terms are often used interchangeably, they are actually very different approaches:

Document Management/Imaging:  DMI focuses on document storage and retrieval. Many systems are limited to converting paper documents to electronic files through scanning. Because their viewers can only handle a few files types, they often can’t manage a wide range of content. In addition, accessing documents can be cumbersome and is usually not integrated with core HIT applications, like the EMR. Without robust, permission-based access, sometimes document viewing cannot be restricted appropriately, opening up the system to security issues.

DMI systems often have limited scalability in both the numbers and types of users and documents they can maintain with optimal performance. They lack sophisticated automated workflow features and are sometimes difficult to integrate with other IT systems. Because of these limitations, healthcare organizations often use multiple systems to meet the different needs of different departments, creating silos of information and hindering interoperability across the organization.

Enterprise Content Management: ECM provides a single solution for departments and processes across a healthcare organization. True ECM handles nearly any type of unstructured content (translation: any information not already handled as data in another system), including paper, emails, graphics, videos, photos, forms, clinical images, electronic feeds, data from other siloed storage.

It also has robust security settings that keep sensitive content, from patient information to employee files, protected from unauthorized access. Beyond better storage, it also has easier retrieval – allowing users to access content as if it came with their key applications like EMRs or ERPs.  In addition, ECM brings automated workflows, having tasks completed automatically, to the healthcare enterprise, integrating content into your clinical and business processes.

Content is at the foundation of many healthcare initiatives – from providing a complete electronic  medical record to recognizing payments sooner in the revenue cycle to creating more efficient business processes in administrative departments. By moving from a document management system to an enterprise content management strategy, healthcare organizations create powerful, dynamic solutions that will support strategic initiatives (meeting Meaningful Use standards, joining accountable care organizations (ACOs), supporting health information exchanges (HIEs), etc.) today and tomorrow.

Dan West

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