Using a Digital Mailroom for Healthcare Services
Effective management and timely access to patient information is critical in the healthcare industry.
But traditional approaches to handling patient documents that arrive through the mail can be inefficient, time-consuming, error prone, and slow. Sixty-two percent of healthcare organizations say that their biggest document-related challenge is the manual handling of paper, according to the Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM). Finding and retrieving physical files, keying data, and routing paper documents manually between departments can significantly slow down workflows and impact the timely access to critical information required for patient care.
The challenges of managing patient documents can be overcome by adopting digital mailroom solutions that leverage document scanning, intelligent data capture, and workflow automation.
This article details the benefits of using a digital mailroom for healthcare services.
What is a digital mailroom solution?
Digital mailroom solutions automate the handling of incoming physical mail and documents. Digital mailroom technology replaces traditional mailroom operations with digital processes and workflows.
Some digital mailroom solutions can also receive and process patient documents that arrive via electronic channels such as email, fax, mobile, and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) upload.
Digital mailroom solutions convert physical mail into an electronic format through scanning and intelligent data capture, classify and index documents, and digitally route documents to the appropriate individual or department within an organization based on pre-configured business rules.
How does a digital mailroom solution work?
Digital mailroom solutions typically have a workflow with the following steps:
- Receipt. Physical documents are received at the healthcare organization’s mailroom. Staff prepare the documents for processing by removing envelopes, staples, or attachments.
- Scanning. High-speed document scanners convert physical documents into high-resolution digital images. The best high-speed scanners can process multiple types of documents comingled, and automatically sort documents based on the information they contain.
- Capture. Optical character recognition (OCR), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other technologies analyze the scanned documents, recognize text characters, and convert the data into machine-readable text. Relevant patient information such as sender details, dates, and invoice numbers are automatically extracted from the text for further processing. The documents and data are then indexed for secure digital archival and fast retrieval.
- Intelligent document classification. Once the data is extracted, the digital mailroom solution classifies the documents based on predetermined rules or criteria. The solution determines the type of document (e.g., patient record, insurance claim, invoices) and assigns the appropriate metadata or tags. Business rules can be applied to different document types.
- Workflow routing. Digital mailroom solutions can speed up a healthcare organization’s workflows. The technology can export documents and data to the right person or department based on preconfigured business rules. Exports can be customized based on the organization’s specific requirements and integrated with other systems or processes. Some cloud native digital mailroom solutions offer a built-in document management platform.
- Digital archive and retrieval. Digital mailroom solutions provide a centralized repository to electronically store documents and data in the cloud. Archived documents and data can be instantly accessed by authorized users from any location, at any time, using any device. Most archives include access controls and audit trails to ensure data security and compliance.
- Connectivity. The best digital mailroom solutions use robotic process automation (RPA) to seamlessly connect with electronic health record (EHR) systems and other legacy applications in a healthcare organization without the need for computer programming.
Automating the receipt, processing, routing, storage, and posting of records and other patient documents sent through the mail is a game-changer for healthcare services organizations.
What are the benefits of a digital mailroom solution?
Digital mailroom solutions provide significant benefits to healthcare services organizations.
- Increased efficiency. The time that healthcare organizations waste on administrative tasks is time that they cannot spend on patient care. Digital mailroom solutions eliminate manual back-office tasks such as sorting, shuffling, and filing physical documents, keying data, and chasing down information. Freed from these tasks, staff can focus on higher-value activities.
- Greater staff productivity. Like most other industries, healthcare services organizations are challenged with finding and retaining talent. Digital mailroom solutions eliminate the manual tasks that bog employees down and make work seem like a chore. Technology enables staff to be productive no matter where they work. Decision-makers can stay in the know while on the go. And healthcare services organizations can quickly scale their operations to support business growth, without the need to hire additional staff.
- Reduced overhead costs. Every healthcare services organization wants to do more with less in these uncertain economic times. Automating manual back-office tasks with a digital mailroom solution enables healthcare organizations to reduce paper-related costs, decrease time wasted fixing keying errors, reallocate staff to higher-value activities, and more quickly scale their operations. For instance, digital mailroom solutions reduce the need for physical storage space, paper, printing, and manual labor associated with mail handling and filing.
- Better information accessibility. Caring for patients starts with making the right information available to physicians and other stakeholders. Digital mailroom solutions electronically store and index documents and data in a centralized cloud archive that instantly puts smart insights at the fingertips of the people who need them, when and where they need them. Documents and data are also available to remote users and those on the go. And with a digital mailroom solution, stakeholders can easily collaborate on documents and share information to coordinate patient care, regardless of their department or physical location.
- Better patient care. The information accessibility provided by digital mailroom solutions makes it easy for healthcare services organizations to respond to patient inquiries quickly and efficiently. Patient records, medical test results, insurance claims, and correspondence, can be processed and delivered more quickly. And digital workflows and a centralized electronic archive dramatically reduces the possibility of lost or misplaced documents.
- Enhanced information security. The sensitive information that flows through healthcare services organizations is a tantalizing target for bad actors. Digital mailroom solutions help healthcare services organizations safeguard patient records and mitigate their risk of data breaches and fraud through access controls, data encryption, audit trails and more.
- Streamlined medical records management. Digitizing incoming mail and documents makes it easier for healthcare services organizations to reduce their reliance on paper and create and maintain electronic medical records (EMRs) or electronic health records (EHRs). The controls in digital mailroom solutions also support compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other privacy and data security regulations.
- Faster billing and claims processing. The healthcare industry is overrun with paperwork related to billing, claims, and reimbursements. A digital mailroom can automate the handling of these documents to accelerate administrative tasks and revenue cycle management.
This is why more healthcare organizations are deploying digital mailroom solutions.
How to pick the right digital mailroom solution
There are a lot of digital mailroom solutions out there. Picking the wrong one can set a healthcare services organization back. Here are some considerations when evaluating potential solutions.
- Understand your needs. Consider your volume of incoming mail, types of documents, integration requirements, and any specific workflows or processes that need to be supported.
- Keep capture front of mind. The solution should offer efficient document scanning and data capture capabilities for easy indexing, searchability, and retrieval of information.
- Consider your integration needs. Determine how well each digital mailroom solution integrates with your EHR system, workflow platform, and other legacy systems. Seamless integration ensures the smooth exchange of information and reduces the need for rework.
- Prioritize data security and compliance features. Ensure that prospective solutions provide robust security measures such as encryption, access controls, user authentication, and audit trails. Verify that the solution complies with relevant regulations, such as HIPAA.
- Look for a scalable solution. Prospective solutions should be scalable enough to adapt to evolving business needs and support changes to your specific workflows and requirements. Some digital mailroom solutions offer high-speed scanners that process co-mingled docs.
A solution with these attributes will help streamline your organization’s back-office operations.
Healthcare services organizations manage lots of documents and data. Inefficient and ineffective mailroom processes can drive up costs, impact patient care, and create fraud and compliance risks. Digitizing incoming mail and documents enables faster access to critical information, enhances care coordination, optimizes medical records management, streamlines billing and claims processing, and mitigates potential risks. It’s exactly what healthcare organizations need in today’s digital era.