6 min readEfficient Healthcare through Data Management Systems
Healthcare is fast becoming one the most competitive and value added industries worldwide. There are many technology driven developments in diagnosis, treatment, care provision, patient monitoring and healthcare infrastructure.
However, despite the various sophisticated technologies implemented across various entities in hospitals, the basic handling of patient information, administrative activities and financial processes are still being completed through paper based processes. The everyday routine in hospitals involves much work such as filling patient forms, sending faxes, copying and filling several laboratory and diagnostic reports, so as to clear the path for reimbursement. This puts light on the huge amount of paperwork that hospitals have to handle on a day to day basis.
Data management systems (DMS) can be defined as software solutions that would help in storing, indexing, retrieval, archival and migration of patient related and other healthcare documents, with adequate measures for data privacy and security. DMS also aim to be cost effective solutions for implementing directives for electronic documentation of clinical information, billing, claims management and healthcare administration related information with appropriate access levels to personnel at various levels.
A DMS solution in a hospital environment aims to optimize the efficiency of clinical information systems (CIS), picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), hospital information systems (HIS) and billing systems as well as elevate the synergies among these systems. The concept of DMS evolved many years ago, but in its early days it only involved scanning and storing documents. Now there are several ways to capture and store electronic data streams using Data management technology such as computer to laser disk (COLD). The other important aspect of DMS is its ability to manage the entire lifecycle of documents, including workflow and distribution. The business process management gets a unique boost with the implementation of DMS through increased efficiency and decrease in the amount of administrative errors with the aim to provide better care to patients.
Challenges in this Spectrum
One of the foremost challenges in implementing data management solutions is funding. Hospitals generally place more importance on diverting funds towards improving the quality of care and clinical healthcare IT modules.
A second challenge plaguing the industry is the advent of niche solutions to manage paper based processes. These solutions are not designed to be compatible with existing solution platforms. Another factor is the vast amount of investment required in the infrastructure to accommodate the new solution, while it also might not match the work flow of the medical team. Many hospitals consider other aspects such as electronic medical records (EMR) as more valuable investment than DMS, even though DMS can also be used to track patient records and are equipped to perform various other functions.
DMS vendors need to convey the various utilities of DMS to healthcare providers to overcome these difficulties. There is also the challenge for vendors to customise their products to compliment the existing workflow of clinical information systems and other HIS in order to penetrate the market. At the same time there is also the need to train hospital employees to efficiently use the DMS.
Today, data management systems form a critical component of the EMR and other HIS integrations. DMS is considered one of the most cost efficient tools for automating a hospital and is also considered the easiest path to EMR. EMR would manage the patient’s medical information generated within the confines of a hospital or provider. However a lot of information is stacked in paper based patient charts and other paper based reports which are updated on a day to day basis. This information also needs to be integrated into the patient records. This has necessitated the need to process the paper based records and other existing electronic documents to extract information and enable better search and retrieval of vital data, while at the same time create the right links with existing electronic patient records.
A DMS can help in processing both internally and externally created patient data at the same time, providing secure access to authorised personnel across departments. The processed data from such sources can be exported to the EMR and eventually to the EHR. Another aspect of EMR is that they are implemented for day to day basic patient information, so a lot historical data is not integrated into them and still remains in paper based formats. The DMS acts as an ideal tool to create and integrate archived patient records and emulate the required information structure.
The prime focus area of an EMR is only on patient records; however a healthcare DMS helps in creating benefits by creating greater efficiencies and streamlining processes in various departments such as admission, facilities management, accounting, billing, human resources and legal. The other positive point of a DMS is that it can implemented in a matter of days or weeks as compared to months or years for an EMR at the fraction of the cost. The providers can provide improved information access for authorised users across the organisation and at the same time protect patient data by selecting a system with configurable repository structure and comprehensive security measures.