Tips for your healthcare document management system

From maintaining ISO standards to ensuring good patient care, document control in healthcare has never been more critical.

March 1, 2022

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

In fact, it would be nearly impossible to properly care for patients and run your organization smoothly without managing your medical documents efficiently and effectively.

Medical document management involves sensitive information and strict regulations. It's about protecting your documents so you can best protect your organization and the community it serves.

However, healthcare document management goes beyond simply keeping track of paperwork in binders or storing random documents in a shared Google Drive or OneDrive. It's more than emailing .doc attachments to your employees and asking them to write back and tell you they've read it.

Document management for healthcare takes time and attention. But managing your information well means being attentive as you create, edit, 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 records and filing cabinets. However, this method can quickly become costly and ineffective.

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 convenient, instant access to documents and other important information.

Think of it this way: only when you have access to the information you need can you use 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.

The importance of document control

The first step to effective document management for healthcare is having good 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 your organization's various governing bodies, as well as your human resources department. This will protect your organization, your employees, and the patients you serve.

1. Easily demonstrate regulatory compliance

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

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

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 levels. 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 solutions have features that allow you to track who has reviewed and signed all your documents.

Quickly adjust to changing requirements

Healthcare public policy and technology can change quite rapidly. Effective medical document management means you have to be as easily adaptable in order to keep up with the ever-changing landscape.

It also requires a willingness to quickly update your policies to line up with changing requirements. It's much easier to update existing documents than create new ones from scratch. Having all your healthcare documents in one place within a single repository can be a great help with this.

Rather than wrangling binders and risking updating the wrong document, you can make fast changes in a healthcare document management system. Then, you can re-distribute electronic documents via email, ask people to log into the system to read the new documents, and have your team sign off on them.

2. Establish Robust Workflows and Security

Security is a critical part of working in hospitals and healthcare facilities – it plays a huge part in protecting your patients and, by extension, your organization. And now patient privacy is the law, which means violations and breaches can lead to civil penalties, fines, and even criminal charges. 

Healthcare information management (HIM) is a rapidly growing field. As a leader in your organization, it's your role to develop strategies to ensure optimal security for your documents and patient privacy.

After you create policies around your document management process, you'll want to strategically develop workflow solutions that enforce them.

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, those with authority need to approve your content and corresponding changes throughout a document's lifecycle.

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.

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 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 removes risks like accidentally overwriting or deleting documents or crashing servers, which are common with offline or in-house server-based solutions.

Always work from the most recent version

Collaboration can get messy if it's not done effectively. When you email files back and forth, there's always the potential for a member of your policy compliance team 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 records and documents, is one way to accomplish this.

Knowing that all your users are working on the most recent version of your documents can guarantee nothing is missed or overlooked. 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 could work according to outdated documents, which, at worst, puts everyone at risk. At the very least, it means that work has to be repeated and redone because the team was trying to juggle four different versions of the same document.

3. Equip frontline workers with mission-critical information

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 access what you need

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 providers 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're more likely to use your systems instead of relying on memory. This can drastically reduce the possibilities of errors and incorrect procedures, which benefits everyone.

Access documents anytime, anywhere

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

But what good are they if no one can find them or see them?

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.

Reduce 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.

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.

4. Integrate your healthcare document management systems

Healthcare organizations have to meet various standards, depending on the type of organization or the different functions within the organization. Every accredited healthcare facility meets at least one of these sets of standards:

  • Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC)
  • Center for Improvement In Healthcare Quality (CIHQ)
  • National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAC)
  • National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC)
  • The Joint Commission (TJC)

Depending on the kind of medical facilities you operate, you may have one or two of these accreditations in your operation. And, of course, you will need to access your accrediting body's standards and tie them to your own policies and training standards.

Access your accrediting body’s standards manual

Accreditation requires hundreds, if not thousands, of documents; compliance with different policies, procedures, and best practices; the ability to train staff to accreditation standards; and showing all your compliance work for accreditation reviewers.

One way to accomplish this is not just by accessing your accrediting body's standards manual in your document management system, but also by incorporating it into your policy management and training management solution.

For one, being able to access your accrediting body's standards manual makes achieving full accreditation that much easier. And including the manual in your healthcare electronic management system makes it easier for your employees to access that information since it's all stored in the same centralized location. 

Link policies and proofs of compliance to accreditation standards

Integrating your accrediting body's manual into your healthcare document management software also means you can easily incorporate it into your policy manual. Most accreditation compliance efforts require you to 1) follow those policies, 2) prove that your employees have read and signed off on the policies, and 3) show that your employees have been trained on the policies. 

A policy management solution, combined with your healthcare document management system, can do all of that, and then compile the results into a single place. That means:

  • You can show that people have reviewed and signed off on your policies.
  • You can show that they have reviewed updated policies.
  • You can collect all training sessions and certification data.
  • You can see all testing scores to show the number of employees who have met accreditation requirements.

5. Leverage healthcare document management software

The benefit of a healthcare document management system for any medical professional is that it becomes a "single source of truth" for all your policies, procedures, clinical documents, electronic records, and more.

That means you're no longer scrambling to find the latest version of a policy, wondering if everyone has access to the same updated information. Rather than emailing attachments or printing out new policies, you can place the new policy in the one single location where everyone knows they can find it.

And with a cloud-based solution, all of your employees and staff can access the information they need from any kind of device – whether it's a mobile device, tablet, laptop, desktop, or even an ebook reader – in a pinch.

You can share new updates to old policies or brand new policies. You can ask people to sign off and acknowledge that they have read and understood the policies. And you can even test their knowledge of the policies and compile all of that information to share with your accreditation reviewers.

With the right healthcare electronic document management, all this and more is possible, as long as you have the right solution to begin with.

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 be at their jobs, which ultimately protects the people and community your organization serves. 

Learn more about the benefits, capabilities, and types of document management systems on our website.

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