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From document management to digital imaging and communications in medicine: The evolution of enterprise content management

Susan deCathelineau, Vice President of Healthcare Sales and Service, Hyland, creator of OnBase

Susan deCathelineau, Vice President of Healthcare Sales and Service, Hyland, creator of OnBase

Enterprise content management (ECM) has made tremendous strides in the past ten years, yet in many cases, it remains invisible to those who use it every day. ECM stores the clinical content that resides outside of the electronic medical record (EMR) – as much as 65 percent in some instances – and a large proportion of administrative and financial content, making it the single most central content repository in a healthcare organization.

ECM started as a departmental document management solution in administrative and financial departments. What was then referred to as “imaging and document management,” the solution concentrated on scanning and electronically storing paper content to help departments reduce storage costs and recover valuable space. Over time, the solution grew to include workflows, business process management and case management capabilities that accelerate business processes, saving time and resources. It’s evolved from a document management solution into what is now known as ECM.

It’s a familiar sight to see medical office staff hand a patient a clipboard of forms. It’s not very common for patients to receive a mobile tablet device that contains electronic versions of all of the relevant forms they need to review, complete and sign. ECM automatically fills the forms with the patient information that’s already on file, so patients do not have to input redundant information, making for a better experience. And, because ECM electronically captures the content, complete and accurate patient information is instantly available from within the electronic medical record (EMR), streamlining the entire registration process as well as downstream processes, like billing. This clinical content strategy is essential to the health data continuum, providing healthcare organizations with the roadmap to improved patient care.

Beyond administrative data, ECM technology grew to include clinical content like lab results, wound care photos, EKGs and more. By integrating this content into the EMR, clinicians quickly and easily access it without toggling between applications. For administrative departments, integrating ECM with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems allows staff to remain in the ERP system while accessing related information to complete tasks. As the volume of content continues to grow and the need for a central repository becomes increasingly more important, integrations with other core business systems continue to be a cornerstone of ECM solutions to support accessibility, security and patient care.

ECM continues to evolve. Among the newest developments is the ability to capture and store Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) content, like X-rays, MRIs and CT scans. ECM’s capability to ingest and manage these images rounds out the solution’s effectiveness to provide healthcare organizations with a comprehensive clinical content strategy.

Serving as an enterprise-wide platform, ECM connects numerous IT systems and departments across the organization.While this true enterprise solution captures, stores and automates processes across financial, administrative and clinical departments, perhaps it is ECM’s health information exchange capability that providers find most exciting.

Now, when there is a transition of care, patient content simultaneously and electronically transfers to the next organization. Transporting records no longer falls to the patient and clinicians no longer need to start from scratch to manually construct a collection of patient data. This clinical content strategy is essential to the health data continuum, providing healthcare organizations with the roadmap to improved patient care.

ECM has come a long way from its roots in document management. The scan-store-retrieve model, which helped eliminate file cabinets and repurpose physical space, has grown into a core, enterprise solution. Creating more complete patient records, ECM serves as a single point of access for clinical content, ensuring the right providers have the right information, at the right time and in the right context, resulting in more effective patient care. ECM also creates more complete administrative records, enabling providers to take advantage of case and business process management tools to become more efficient and lower costs.

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