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While attending a recent DNV Healthcare Symposium, I engaged in several conversations focused on the topic of document control and the current state of the software industry supporting it. I realized, the history of this concept and technology trends in this space are valuable to healthcare professionals as they struggle to find ways to effectively meet increasing requirements. Many organizations are not aware of the great leaps in technology created to ensure document control is easily-attainable, secure and affordable.

When I returned from the symposium, I sat down and organized my thoughts into an article titled “The Evolution of Document Control“, recently published by the California Association of Healthcare Quality (CAHQ) Journal.

Document control can be considered one of an organization’s most critical quality assurance disciplines. Information in written form defines nearly every action within a healthcare organization, and the ability to control this information often means the difference between success and failure.

When healthcare professionals consider document control, they often relate it solely to the ISO 9001 standards. Beyond ISO requirements, which define document control in relatively narrow terms, document control could be defined as a technical approach to governing document quality and mitigating risk stemming from human error in document preparation, access, and consolidation.

Today, with robust document control systems, there is a more accurate, immutable history being recorded of the human-to-document relationship, capturing the complete story of its history, from authorship to consumption. By using a best-of-breed DMS with document controls, you can capture every “move” of the document and see who has interacted with it, what they did, and when, as well as its relationship to other documents within the organization. It is important to understand this human-to-document relationship and capture it through every point of the document’s lifecycle. Document lifecycle management is one of the most important features of document control enabling organizations to create a single source of truth for their most crucial forms of communication.

Organizations that have not adopted a modern DMS, establishing a single source of truth, risk the possibility of multiple similar documents floating around, and no one knows which one is the most up-to-date or relevant. With some documents, this is not an issue, but it becomes one when you are dealing with highly important documentation, such as an infectious disease policy.  A document management system with the right type of document control can greatly improve a healthcare organization’s quality of care and is a big step in the direction of achieving operational excellence.

Technology designed to provide document control, at the very least, should include these features:

  • Version control: documents can exist in draft, published or archived forms simultaneously while ensuring only the most recent version is in circulation
  • Compare feature: quickly identify any changes made to a document
  • Workflow management: collaborate on a document while tracking changes, capturing input and gaining approvals along the way
  • Employee acknowledgment: capture electronic signatures for proof of receipt and accountability
  • Document relationship: dynamically link relevant documents to one another and accreditation and regulatory standards
  • Security management: efficiently manage exactly who has what rights to do what
  • Group management: set group privileges based on departments, roles, etc.

Once there is validity for an industry in the software marketplace, any excuse for not using a best-of-breed solution goes away. In almost all cases when the software industry surrounds the need through a hyper-focus on solving it, 1) it validates the need, and 2) removes excuses for doing it yourself. An organization can justify building their own solution when one doesn’t exist, but once it becomes a commodity, you can no longer build one that works as good or costs less. In the early 2000s it may have made sense to build and use a homegrown or patchwork document control solution, but with great solutions on the market today building your own is no longer justifiable.

Document management companies are creating systems specific to the needs of healthcare organizations based on continuous feedback from their current client-base. And those with a software-as-a-service (SaaS), or cloud-based, solution can push changes and enhancements to customers in a matter of seconds. Through their technology expertise and understanding of the healthcare industry’s needs, there are now elegant solutions available to manage the complexities of document control. When considering your organization’s document control needs, be sure there are many great turnkey software solutions ready for the task. They are highly evolved, highly mature and ready to meet healthcare’s document control challenges.

Click here to read Josh Brown’s entire article “The Evolution of Document Control” in the CAHQ Journal.