By Rick Dana Barlow, Editor-at-large, March 2015

As healthcare data and information exchange migrates to electronic or paperless and Cloud-based operations, it may seem like curses and curtains for traditional paper file cabinets. A crisis or disaster can destroy paper records; negligent staffers can lose, misplace, or even steal paper records. Paper records may seem immune to computer hackers, but they are also vulnerable to all kinds of environmental problems that can destroy them. The alternative is a robust electronic document management system. Against this backdrop, what does the future hold for document management and how do healthcare organizations maintain its relevance and usefulness—whether “new age” or “old school” ?

Recent events underscore the necessity of a strong document management protocol. In one instance, a Brooklyn warehouse was destroyed by a fire in late January. It contained medical, legal, and financial records from hundreds of clients. Documents found in the surrounding neighborhood after the fire identified the paper records as coming from New York City hospitals and healthcare centers. According to newspaper accounts, the documents included doctors’ notes, intake forms, pharmacy records, test results, wills, time cards, payroll records and checks, and sensitive medical information.

In a Wall Street Journal report, a spokesman for North Shore-LIJ said the documents they lost consisted primarily of medical records, legal documents, and personnel and administrative files, but the vast majority of the system’s files were stored elsewhere. According to a New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation spokesman, HHC is an early adopter of electronic medical record systems, keeps vital patient records in electronic form and did not anticipate the event would affect its patient-care operations.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in January released “Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap Version 1.0.” The draft roadmap is a proposal to deliver better care that will result in healthier people through the safe and secure exchange and use of electronic health information. The announcement is important for any organization looking for a system that can grow with future government requirements. The draft roadmap calls for ONC to identify the best available technical standards for core interoperability functions.

Health Management Technology tapped into the mindsets of several industry experts to explore their outlooks for document management.

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