In an era of electronic health records and Internet of things (IoT), one would think paper and paper forms would be a thing of the past. Based on our data, hospitals still print an average of 190 pages per patient a day.
Let’s do the math. A 500-bed hospital on average discharges over 2,000 patients per month equating to more than 425,000 pages per year. I believe we can all agree that’s an astronomical amount of paper. Making even a small dent in the volume of pages printed per year would improve hospital efficiency and is a win for hospital administration and patients.
It’s common knowledge that healthcare is attempting to go paperless. However, this is far from a reality, with 60% of print coming out of EHR systems (Nuance), the supposed paperless solution. In a recent survey of HIM Directors from Epic hospitals, 76.5% claimed to still use paper consent forms. (2014 Midwest Informatics, LLC report). In fact, it is common for not only consent forms, but also for clinical notation and other documentation to physically pass hands even when an Electronic Health Records system may already be in place.
In this article, we’ll examine the use of paper forms in hospitals and three key areas paper forms are hindering hospital efficiency.
1. Integration Drawbacks
Along with unnecessary cost, preprinted paper forms are inefficient to revise and present healthcare systems with difficulty of integrating with the EHR.
In a study of hospital nursing units, it was found that each unit studied had a paper document providing an overview of patient status and care needs, but was absent in the patient’s EHR for a lack of coherent integration, which disabled the document from being central and longitudinal (JAMIA).
2. Compromised Document Integrity
From stocking to filing, the life cycle of a printed-paper form leaves ample room for error, causing both delayed patient care and a lack of document integrity.
With excessive pre-printed forms of different versions lying around, a staff member could accidentally grab an old form that could lead to the passing along of inaccurate information, possibly including outdated medication dosages.
3. Threat to Patients’ Safety
Paper forms also pose a direct threat to patient privacy and well-being. Missing consent forms occur in 66 percent of procedures (JAMA Surgery), which not only has the potential to delay time-sensitive surgeries, but also begs the question of where the form ended up.
If medications are administered at the projected start time of a procedure, the effectiveness of the medicine may be compromised by the delay of a missing consent form, which additionally frustrates the surgeon and the patient may become anxious (Healthcare Business & Technology).
As you can see, based on the pain points listed above, hospitals need to move to automated forms. This is possible by combining a complementary electronic forms system with the existing EHR and therefore negating these challenges and improving hospital efficiency while reducing the volume of printed documents across the board. Combining existing EHR systems with an electronic forms database is a simple process enabling seamless document integration, securing document integrity and enhancing patient care and privacy, thus improving overall hospital efficiency and bringing the paperless goal a giant step closer.