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6 Ways Paper Documents Hold Doctor's Offices Back

Lacey Jackson
January 15, 2020
Min Read

While industries like tech, retail, CPG, and even agriculture have long been able to reap the benefits of digital transformation, highly regulated sectors like healthcare have fallen behind, relying on cumbersome documents and paper-based processes that are familiar and seemingly reliable. But hospital networks and doctor's offices risk a lot more than headaches caused by tiresome, outdated paper processes.  Failing to transform wastes time and money and reduces opportunity for interoperability.

Now that i's 2020, patients don't just expect a digital experience, they demand it. As a healthcare organization, here's what's at risk by continuing to employ paper-based document processes.

The Problem with Paper Documents

The cost of paper. Paper costs a lot more than you might think. In fact, printing (including paper, printers, and ink) is the third largest expense behind payroll and rent for most businesses. On average, office employees use 10,000 pieces of paper per year, which adds up, especially in a doctor's office where forms abound. Plus, that figure equates to about 1.3 trees per employee per year, costing the environment too.

Form frustration. Patients know that countless forms (from HIPAA consent to medical history to insurance information) await them when they visit the doctor. While many of these forms could be completed online prior to the visit (also saving time) or on a tablet in the waiting room, the majority of offices still opt for printing and even mailing new patient forms, wasting time and  inconveniencing patients.

Paper is risky. Paper might seem secure because it's tangible, but it actually poses more challenges than digital patient documents. Not only can papers get lost and destroyed, they also risk patient security and identity if they end up in the wrong hands.

The Problem with Paper-Based Processes

Employee time suck. Paper-based patient workflows also mean duplicative data. When patients fill out paper forms by hand, their information must be transferred into an electronic patient record for the office's EHR/EMR, resulting in time-consuming and monotonous work for front office staff.

Human error. Paper documents also mean there's a margin for error — both in interpreting handwriting (and thus, risking entry of inaccurate medical information) and mistyping information into the computer. As patient information changes or new staff members are added, offices run the risk of entering duplicate patient records into the system.

Complex data sharing. The beauty of the Information Age is the speed at which we can share data. But paper documents must either be mailed (costing time and money), faxed (which the average patient doesn't own anymore), or scanned (resulting in hard-to-read second generation documents). Yet, from specialist referrals to patient transfers, data sharing is critical for the healthcare industry.

Digital Documents Save Patients (But Not the Way You Think)

No, document automation doesn't save lives. But it does make your office run more efficiently, allowing your medical staff to do their jobs better and keep patients healthy. Paper patient workflows are not only cumbersome and wasteful, but also completely unnecessary in a digital society that's only becoming more savvy. Patients (and medical professionals) are ready for more streamlined care and communication that doesn't sacrifice time, sanity, or data accuracy. Is this the year you transition to a digital office?

Formstack makes the entire patient workflow easy, giving you the tools to not only generate digital healthcare forms, but use the data you collect in future agreements, medical notes, patient letters, and more. We understand that as new technologies are launched and legislation changes, maintaining total healthcare interoperability becomes more challenging.

Formstack Documents helps you not only stay HIPAA compliant and secure, but conscious of maintaining your organization's interoperability network-wide. Download our complete State of Healthcare Interoperability guide for tips and advice on keeping your office connected.


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Lacey Jackson
Lacey is a Product Marketing Manager at Formstack who is dedicated to creating content that showcases the power of the Formstack Platform. When she’s not creating Formstack Builders tutorials, she can be found reading, playing board games, or strolling with her dog. Lacey is a graduate of Franklin College.
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