In February 2009, President Obama signed into law a bill that is now transforming the face of healthcare IT in the United States faster than any technical or any other regulatory change in history, creating new challenges for healthcare administrators. Hospitals and physicians who treat Medicaid and Medicare patients must demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHR) to qualify for funding to modernize the country’s health IT systems over the next few years.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) section of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides $22 billion for automation which amounts to $44k per physician over the next few years. A stick follows the carrot. If, in a few years time, physicians and hospitals cannot demonstrate meaningful use, they will see their Medicaid and Medicare payments reduced. Meeting meaningful use criteria is, by far, the biggest new driver in healthcare IT spending today.
It is not hard to see why such a stimulus was needed. Doctors in America and Canada are drowning in paperwork. Earlier this year, a study of over 16,000 U.S. internal medicine trainees revealed that over two thirds were spending more than 4 hours a day on documentation.
All healthcare providers must interact daily with other healthcare organizations and insurance bodies. Email has been legally ruled out as an acceptable medium for transmitting protected health information (PHI), though for expediency the laws restricting its use are frequently flouted. Faxing plays a critical role, bridging the old and new world. All hospitals, even the most technically advanced, have fax machines. Faxing is the main medium for the secure transmission of patient information, yet many clinics and hospitals still do not have centralized fax services powered by fax servers. Fax servers can be integrated tightly into EHR systems, automatically transmitting or receiving and categorizing information. They can become an essential switch in healthcare workflow.
In some hospitals, fax machines communicating with fax servers, rather than scanners, have become the favoured means of transforming paper into digital form and routing that information into an EHR system. The fax server may be situated in a provider’s building, or for smaller organizations it may be remotely hosted by an EHR application service provider or a managed service provider.
OpenText surveyed it’s healthcare customers and amongst the hospitals interviewed, the most common uses for RightFax were, in order of frequency of mention:
- Outbound prescriptions from physicians to pharmacies
- Inbound and outbound patient records
- Outbound radiology and imaging results to physicians
- Physicians’ orders or referrals, inbound and outbound
- Other lab results outbound
- Outbound purchase orders from Purchasing
- Physician credentialing, inbound and outbound
- Scheduling outbound
- Insurance and billing, inbound and outbound
The Hospitals cited 3 major benefits from using RightFax:
- Cost savings through a reduction in postal costs, printing costs and maintenance of multiple stand alone fax machines
- Efficiency by being able to fax directly from a computer without printing or retrieve faxes without hunting for paper files
- Legal compliance, fewer errors or missing faxes since all faxes sent and received are stored and can be retrieved later easily.