Is your lab drowning in paper? Chances are, unless you've adopted an advanced imaging system to digitally organize your most critical records, paper presents a problem.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that in the typical U.S. workplace, a single employee could handle and dispose of some 10,000 sheets of paper per year. At the national and global scale, that equates to hundreds of millions of tons of paper being consumed and discarded each year.
Reducing or even eliminating paper documents has been a core initiative of businesses in all industries, including health care. But moving away from that standard in labs, hospitals and doctor's offices is no small task. The imaging platform integrated in ApolloLIMS puts labs on a path toward dramatic reductions in paper consumption while providing an automated way to organize and analyze paper records in a digital interface. The end result is cost-savings from all angles. Increased productivity, higher throughput, better organization and a lower paper bill are just a few of the benefits of a robust imaging module.
The path to lab optimization
The health care industry has made significant progress shifting away from paper and embracing digital information standards like electronic health records. But there are still many times that medical professionals and administrators come into contact with sensitive paper documents. These include:
- Requisitions from providers to authorize testing.
- Insurance cards with personal financial information.
- Face sheets that contain important patient health information.
- Contracts or agreements that need to be verified.
- Physician order agreements containing more specific testing instructions.
All of these documents need to be quickly organized, making sure the right form ends up with the right person at the right time so that testing can proceed as usual. Security and privacy are also paramount as these documents wind their way through a lab.
Despite all the procedures and protocols in place to see these needs met, paper documents still present inherent risks. Whether due to human error or deliberate action, the simple fact is that paper records tend to go missing. Some estimates for large corporations hypothesize that every 12 seconds, a paper document is misplaced or lost. The cost of this disorganization cannot be accurately quantified, but in the sensitive world of health care, even carelessness can put lives at risk.
However, too many lab managers hesitate to invest much further in their LIMS capabilities, assuming any benefits realized won't outweigh the many costs and risks. On the contrary, the technology is there and within reach for most labs, according to a report in Clinical Biochemistry. Engineers are constantly developing new ways to implement imaging systems that import a range of paper documents for digital storage and manipulation. But even more amazing are the ways in which these processes are becoming automated. In advanced labs, it's not unreasonable to expect almost no human intervention from the moment a paper physician's order is received to when test results are printed and sent back. "If the potential for the inclusion of intelligent systems in both these areas is to be realized, the continued dialogue between clinicians and laboratory information specialists is of paramount importance," the report stated.
Automation makes the difference
When the process of digitally importing and archiving paper records is made as streamlined as possible, a range of benefits clearly present themselves:
- Test results or patient information can be securely stored on a server, allowing access by authorized doctors, pathologists and even patients as long as they can get online. This enables higher standards of care and patient satisfaction.
- Billing and payment become easier as images and test codes can be accurately recorded and quickly retrieved. Confusion or paperwork mixups are few and far between.
- Less paper requires less storage space, an underappreciated fringe benefit of digital labs. With important records safely stored on-site or in the cloud, filing cabinets become obsolete and waste baskets don't overflow.
With so many solutions in reach using an advanced lab imaging system, why aren't more organizations going all-in on digital? "The major challenge for laboratory scientists and informaticians is to promote use of their knowledge in the clinical world," Clinical Biochemistry researchers pointed out. "As always, the problem is not with the computers but with the people."
In a health care environment growing more competitive by the day, there's no excuse to keep falling behind labs where digital imaging and process automation are already taken for granted. ApolloLIMS provides not only an intuitive imaging platform, but one that fits perfectly within a full-featured suite of modules to optimize every aspect of lab management and operation.
Contact ApolloLIMS today to learn more about its unique advantages and to get your lab up to speed quickly.