Doctors and administrators discussing their organization's healthcare document management.
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November 30, 2017
    Article highlights
  • Develop comprehensive policies and structures for document control.
  • Establish robust workflows and security.
  • Integrate all your document management systems.

From simple forms to crucial internal policies and procedures, document management and healthcare go hand in hand.

In fact, in many ways, it would be impossible to properly care for patients and run your organization smoothly without aptly managing your medical documents.

As you know, medical document management involves sensitive information and strict regulations. It’s about protecting your documents so you can best protect your organization and those whom it serves.

However, healthcare document management goes beyond simply keeping track of paperwork in binders.

Yes, document management for healthcare certainly takes time and attention. But managing your information well means being attentive as you create, edit, and distribute, and update your documents.

To meet the mark across your company, you’ll need a document management system that supports you throughout your documents’ lifecycle.

You may be used to dealing with stacks of paper and filing cabinets. However, this method can quickly become costly and, down the road, less than effective.

Paper, printing, and office supplies add up – not to mention they offer very little security for your most sensitive documents. Also, rifling through paper documents can be a time waster when you and your staff need fast, convenient access to important information.

Think of it this way. Only when you have access to the information you need can you apply it in meaningful ways. This is where healthcare document management software can be of great assistance to your organization.

No matter where you are in the document management journey, you can implement best practices that ensure you make the best use of your time, money, and resources. Here are a few tried-and-true insights for successful healthcare document management.

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1. Develop Comprehensive Policies and Structures for Document Control

The importance of document control

The first step to effective document management for healthcare is understanding the importance of document control. Document control means you have a plan in place for managing information that mitigates risk and governs document quality.

When you implement policies on how to handle your information, you can ensure compliance with governing bodies. This will protect your organization, its employees, and the patients they serve.

Easily demonstrate regulatory compliance

You already know that your organization deals with highly sensitive information. One wrong move could lead to significantly negative outcomes.

That’s why protecting your organization through compliance with regulations is key. If you want to reduce risk of litigation and protect your organization financially, it’s important to demonstrate that your information-related policies align with the most recent regulations.

Of course, HIPAA is a major part of compliance for protecting health information. However, there are a number of other agencies and regulatory bodies to consider at both the state and federal level. These agencies include the following, among others:

Track who has reviewed and signed documents

Unfortunately, aligning your documents to regulating bodies isn’t enough to protect your organization in court.

To further mitigate risk and demonstrate compliance with governing bodies, you will need to prove that everyone has seen and signed your policy documents.

This can be difficult to do, as you can imagine, with paper documents, which can be easily lost. Instead of taking up valuable time (and office supplies), opt for online document management.

Most healthcare document management software has features that allow you to track who has reviewed and signed all your documents.

Healthcare documents being managed in a long hallway of file folders on shelves.

Quickly adjust to changing requirements

Healthcare public policy and technology can change quite rapidly. Effective medical document management takes adaptability for this very reason.

It also requires a willingness to quickly update your policies to line up with changing requirements. As you can imagine, It’s much easier to update existing documents than create new ones from scratch.

Having all your healthcare documents in one place with a single document repository can be a great help with this.

Rather than wrangling binders and risking updating the wrong document, you can make fast changes online. Then, you can re-distribute documents electronically and have your team sign off on them.

2. Establish Robust Workflows and Security

Security is a crucial part of working in the healthcare industry – it plays a huge part in protecting your patients and, by extension, your organization.

That’s why healthcare information management (HIM) is such a rapidly growing field. As a leader in your organization, it’s your role to develop strategies for ensuring optimal security for your documents and privacy for your patients.

After you create policies around your healthcare document management, you will want to strategically develop workflows that enforce these things.

Workflows to help route and approve changes

Document management solutions are more than just vaults for securely storing your healthcare information. They are dynamic tools that allow for safe and effective collaboration as documents evolve.

Because your documents are rarely stagnant, you will need those with authority to approve your content and corresponding changes throughout a document’s life cycle.

Developing strategic workflows helps you plan who needs to see and approve all of your documents. It also allows you to manage all your information securely, so sensitive documents don’t get into the wrong hands.

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Secure, cloud-based collaboration

Working on sensitive healthcare documents is typically a team effort. With the combined perspectives and knowledge of industry leaders, you can make sure you cover all your bases, all the time.

However, it’s just as important to make sure your documents are secure along the way. With a cloud-based document management software, only those with appropriate rights can work on specific documents.

In addition, cloud-based collaboration ensures security by eliminating the need to email files back and forth.

It also eliminates risks like accidentally overwriting or deleting documents or crashing servers, which are common with offline or server-based solutions.

Always work from the most recent version

Collaboration can get messy. When you email files back and forth, there’s always potential for a user to work from an outdated document, which results in more work for everyone.

A major part of document management is keeping things as simple as possible for everyone who will work on and access your documents. Version control, or closely managing evolving versions of your medical documents, is one way to accomplish this.

Knowing that all your users are working on the most recent version of all your documents can provide great peace of mind. Medical document management software with version control features can also ensure you distribute the most recent document versions.

Without this information in hand, your team will work according to outdated documents, which puts everyone at risk.

3. Integrate All Your Document Management Systems

Along with compliance and security, accessibility is an important aspect of healthcare document management.

You want to make sure everyone in your organization can quickly and easily access the information they need when it matters most. With old-school paper systems, this can get tricky and time-consuming.

Having all your documents in one, central, online location is an invaluable asset because it streamlines how your organization accesses information it needs to thrive.

Quickly find what you’re looking for

Picture a high-stakes situation in which an employee needs information, and fast. Paging through stacks of potentially outdated papers is not only an annoyance but a risk.

Document management software for healthcare allows users to search for what they need, much like a search engine. This reduces time spent looking for information and makes it easier to find similar documents.

Along the same lines, when employees know they can easily find what they need, they will be more likely to use your systems instead of relying on memory. This can drastically reduce your error margin, which benefits everyone.

Women looking at her healthcare document management system.

Reduced costs by going paperless

Online document management can also benefit your organization by cutting costs. Without the burden of budgeting for printing and other office supplies, you can focus your resources on more important areas.

Of course, paperless policy management also has environmental implications. By doing your part to bring your document management efforts online, you will drastically reduce waste in your company, not to mention prevent unnecessary pollution.

Access documents anytime, anywhere

You created your organization’s documents so your employees would use them.

What good are all the documents you store if they aren’t where your employees are?

You can solve this problem easily by going online. With a cloud-based solution, all your documents are quickly accessible on any device via a mobile app.

This way, all the information necessary for your employees to do their jobs well is accessible anytime, anywhere.

Taking the next step toward compliance, security, and accessibility

Implementing new methods for managing your healthcare documents will certainly take time and effort up-front. But using your resources to protect the documents that ensure your organization runs smoothly is never a poor investment.

Even so, by taking the steps necessary to promote compliance and security in your organization, you are doing far more than protecting your company.

Your diligence with healthcare information also helps your employees be the best they can at their jobs, which ultimately protects those whom your organization serves.

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