When we at Concord stop and envision what streamlined communication can look like today in healthcare, we see a world where technology can automatically identify and extract patient information and transform it into structured data that can then be used within clinical and administrative applications. This is what we are doing with our NEXTSTEP platform that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to reduce the burden of manual document processing in healthcare.
Looking (not so) good on paper
It surprises most people to discover that healthcare organizations still exchange patient health information (PHI) in document format, combining both paper and electronic document processes. Some studies estimate that nearly 80% of all healthcare data exchanges still occur via fax.
This certainly holds the industry back in terms of data sharing and operational efficiencies. The lack of interoperability and limited or difficult access to patient records puts undue stress on the entire healthcare ecosystem, often resulting in delayed care or even poor health outcomes. At the same time, patients are expecting high-quality, individualized and timely care delivery, driven by consumerization of healthcare as well as value-based reimbursement models. Patients can choose providers based on how well they perceive they are being cared for, making organizations to think more progressively about improving outdated processes.
Unlocking data to tap into its full potential
The ability to unlock unstructured healthcare data currently locked up in unstructured faxed documents to make it easily accessible and available for use in various applications is a huge step forward. One approach towards reaching that goal is to implement an AI-driven data extraction and classification technology in conjunction with cloud fax to convert unstructured data into structured data, helping automate the transition of critical data to the electronic health record (EHR) or another system.
In this case, unstructured data refers to patient information transmitted in document form, such as critical patient identifiers: patient name, social security number, medical record number, date of birth and date of encounter. All these are needed for correctly processing inbound referrals, physician orders, clinical notes, medical records requests, and more. The goal is to use technology to identify different types of healthcare documents containing this unstructured data, extract and transform it into structured data that can then be used within clinical and administrative applications for a variety of purposes: from reporting to analytics and research.
Small changes, big results
Provider organizations can implement that type of technology to modernize their document processing capabilities using their existing health IT infrastructure. By simply porting their existing fax numbers to the Concord platform and allowing Concord’s NEXTSTEP Document Process Automation engine to analyze and interpret the content, they can realize the following benefits:
- Facilitate more efficient data sharing by processing inbound and outbound digital documents to extract unstructured data and automatically or manually insert that data into clinical or financial workflows. In such cases, information could be easily shared among different EHRs without point-to-point interfaces, APIs, or other interoperability methods.
- Eliminate traditional fax on-premise infrastructure, reducing associated manual work and costs.
- Improve PHI security.
For example, in the post-acute care (PAC) environment, 83% of facilities report communication problems directly related to receiving inadequate patient information from referring hospitals during the referral process. One in three PACs report they do not receive any documents from a referring hospital, and fewer than one-third of patient discharge summaries ever reach the PAC care team. This drives up the risk of hospital readmissions and negatively impacts patient care.
Moreover, according to recent research commissioned by Concord, the most frequently used format to receive inbound documents from external health providers and payers is paper printed from fax. Staff efficiency had the greatest negative impact on respondents from manually handling patient documents. Respondents also noted lost/misfiled documents and data entry error as being a problem associated with manually handling patient documents.
The reality is healthcare providers solve interoperability challenges every day, one document at a time. Optimizing and automating these processes with the help of advanced technologies contributes significantly to achieving the main organizational goal of safe, efficient and effective patient care delivery. Providers need to strategically partner with reputable technology companies to modernize their document management and sharing processes, reducing the labor-intensive and error-prone manual workload to a minimum.
Authored by: Chris Myers, VP of Sales at Concord Technologies