Paperless Medical Office

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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A paperless medical office might seem like something of an oxymoron--up there with "only choice" and "seriously funny." The vast amount of paper that the health care industry generates is, after all, notorious. Tracking patients through every step of a medical treatment--whether it's an annual check-up with lab work and a physical exam, or a hip replacement operation--is necessarily painstaking and involved.

Getting swallowed by all the attendant paperwork is easy. On the one hand are doctor's notes, lab results, CT-scans, discharge instructions, protocol sheets, and prescriptions. On the other are detailed billings, insurance forms, against medical advice documents, annual competency assessments, and clinical guidelines. There's an answer to all these headaches and paper cuts, however.

The fact is, advances in technology over the last 10 or so years have made a relatively paperless medical office very much a reality. It's certainly a lot easier now than it ever was before to share information, data, and files. Depending on hard copy documents is out. And although using couriers, the U.S. mail, FedEx, UPS, and the like will always be important, the heaviest burden of information systems today falls on network infrastructure, the Internet, and electronic communication systems.

Moving to a Paperless Medical Office

Document imaging systems, the Internet, broadband access, data encryption methods, and electronic record keeping applications are all critical tools and technologies for electronic file management. The challenge in making the conversion is integrating existing hardcopy records with the new system. However, between off-the-shelf software applications geared toward small medical practices and the expert services of IT and document scanning service bureaus, the reality of a (nearly) paperless medical office is well within reach and surprisingly affordable. It certainly pays in the long term. Good investments always do.


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