Obama’s stimulus plan pitches a high priority for automating medical billing and record keeping. Many economists have made the business show circuit lamenting the high cost of implementing computerized medical record and billing systems. Actually, the costs of these document management systems are cheaper than free!
Automated medical record keeping can be the quickest and most immediately profitable part of the stimulus package. The Return-on-Investment of a Document Management System is so immediate that it often reduces total expenditure in the first quarter—think of it as a source of cash. Not only does it reduce paperwork, but it also reduces paper. It is thus a tree-hugger’s green dream. It’s not looking so green back home, I wish the governing body behind my EHIC card in the EU would be as eco-friendly.
Several private sector companies already deliver sophisticated Document Management Systems (DMS). The biggest misunderstanding of such systems is that they require every medical center to have a high cost data center. Actually, these systems are delivered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This means that the customer only needs a computer and a scanner connected to the Internet to use the service anywhere in the world. The software and storage resides at the vendor’s secure data center.
Medical billing is a large part of insurance cost. Congress has already passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to set record and billing standards. DMS companies are already delivering HIPAA Compliant systems that have cut medical costs. As soon as Congress delivers a healthcare plan, DMS vendors will rush to update their software to implement it.
DMS is revolutionizing all business. In these systems, invoices are automatically generated from sales. If the customer uses DMS the whole transaction is paperless. Payments are automatically “reconciled” (matched) to invoices. The same system merges payroll, human resource documents, taxes, and financial record into a seamless data stream.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act sets standard for public traded companies. It requires that records of transaction be dated, tamper proofed and securely stored. This is a task best accomplished by a DMS.
If this Act had extended to all those recent “innovative” financial instruments requiring them to be “Sarbox Compliant,” we might not have the current economic mess. All Sarbox Compliant transactions are transparent and traceable by an authorized independent auditor. The origins and history of all the “toxic assets” would now be clear.
DMS encrypts documents to a level unbreakable by hackers and stores them in a tier-4 level data center – similar to data centers used by the Department-of-Defense—think of this as an impenetrable vault. Authorized personnel anywhere on the Internet can instantly retrieve them. They can be presented for an independent audit—their date stamp proves their authenticity.
The future of DMS is even more exciting and only limited by imagination. Suppose, with patient consent, physician entered plain text (unencrypted) copies of medical records striped of patient IDs. This could provide an extremely rich data bank of case studies that medical researchers could mine. The ability of DMS to organize documents by particular combinations of keywords and parameters such as age would provide an extremely valuable tool.
DMS can make all our transactions paperless. In the future computers will look like sheets of paper; they will resemble printed pages. Research on flexible displays with electrically controlled pigments is going on in labs. In the future some documents will be printed on paper, but they will become the exception rather than the rule.
DMS can become a civil libertarian dream. Our documents will appear only on our display in plain text until waved away. We can thus keep our documents secure until a court orders us to present them.
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