Paper-based issues in hospital

Heavy document workflows in hospitals are generally related to patient care (e.g., admissions, transfers, housekeeping, discharge). In each of these patient care processes, information is captured to update the patient’s care needs and requirements. Any inefficiency can slow down patient care, and any inaccuracies could have serious consequences. For example, a hospital’s admitting area is the source of a very high volume of incoming documents, and several document activities take place in the admissions process:

  • Documents are filled out at the point of contact.
  • Scheduling is set up.
  • Information is distributed to the appropriate departments.
  • A patient chart is created.

The essential components of this document flow are timeliness and accuracy. A heavily paper-based workflow makes distribution of patient information difficult.

Typical problems include:

  • Inaccurate/incomplete data capture
  • Slowdown in accessibility to patient care (A paper document can be used only by one department at a time or multiple copies need to be processed and distributed.)
  • Difficulty of integrating patient data from other healthcare facilities (e.g., primary care physician, other hospitals)

Figure 1 depicts the flow of documents into admissions and then into and within other areas of the hospital. Scanning documents during the admissions process has yielded time and cost savings related to patient care and patient records. First, it has helped to expedite the admissions process itself. Second, by capturing patient data early in the process, the hospital can create electronic patient records that almost immediately can be accessed on demand by multiple departments.

Figure 1 – Hospital work flow


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has significantly affected the workflows of healthcare providers. For example, HIPAA requires that billing records and claims information be maintained for six years. HIPAA also states that patient records must be retained for two years after a patient’s death. Large batch scanning processing facilitates the efficiency of this record-keeping requirement for hospitals done either onsite or outsourced to an outside entity.

Health Insurance Workflows and the Role of Scanning

Another document-intensive workflow within the healthcare industry revolves around the processing of health insurance claims. The key requirements in this business process are:

  • Shortening the time to process the claim
  • Lowering the cost associated with each claim
  • Using minimum storage cost and space for the claims

Companies still using paper throughout the processing of claims experience major pain points:

  • Processing paper-based claims is more time-consuming and expensive than processing electronic-based claims.
  • Storing paper is more expensive than storing an electronic form.
  • More errors are typically associated with paper-based claims than electronic based claims.

Today, while much claim documentation is submitted electronically, many health claims are still submitted in paper form. Scanning paper-based claims early in the document process will help insurance companies overcome many of the paper related shortcomings of higher costs, time, and inaccuracies.