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Beyond Scanning

April 29, 2010
by David Raths
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AIIM conference speakers make a case for enterprise content management’s role in EHR meaningful use.

Sometimes the people in charge of IT systems and the people who run records management departments don’t seem to speak the same language, and the vendors that sell into those markets don’t communicate well either. One presentation at the AIIM Expo and Conference in Philadelphia last week highlighted some of the misconceptions each has about the other, as well as some ways enterprise content management (ECM) systems can play a valuable complementary role in the path to electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use under the ARRA-HITECH legislation.

Sandra Nunn, enterprise records manager for Presbyterian Healthcare in Albuquerque, N.M., said too often ECM is viewed by both CIOs and records managers as limited to the role it has historically played: scanning in paper documents, such as signed consents, to complete the electronic health record. ECM systems are often deployed in silos around healthcare organizations to “solve” particular problems, Nunn said, but are seldom strategically integrated with the EHR deployment. “I think ECM’s potential has been viewed too narrowly,” she said. “It’s important to see the ECM and EHR as not mutually exclusive repositories. They can work together.”

Nunn described how Presbyterian, a seven-hospital integrated delivery system, is using collaboration tools such as SharePoint to allow nurses spread across regional locations to share best practices. ECM systems’ strengths in organizing and indexing can be applied to thousands of diverse, EHR-related information objects such as clinical policies, protocols and guidelines, she added.

Boston-based Partners Healthcare offers a good example of an ECM supporting clinical decision support improvement. At the AIIM show, Paragon Computer Professionals’ healthcare practice director, Cathyann Harris, described her work earlier in her career as a project specialist at Partners eliminating bottlenecks in building consensus among clinicians for updating Partners’ decision support content.

To speed the decision-making process and to better capture the reasons decisions were made, in 2005 Partners started using EMC Documentum eRoom collaboration software. Some decision support reminders may have hundreds of rules linked behind them. The Documentum tools allow visibility into how those rules were set up and the metadata attached to each document.

The effort has both sped up the decision-making process and provided a repository for data and archived discussions, Harris added.

“EHRs are inadequate for supporting strategic knowledge management,” Harris said. “You need tools to support collaborative knowledge maintenance and to ensure knowledge assets are aligned with business drivers.”

Another future role for EMC systems might be as part of e-discovery solutions, a hot topic at the AIIM show. As hospitals seek to cope with increased litigation and track accounting of disclosure and breaches of patient information mandated by the HITECH Act, offerings from ECM vendors could prove more attractive to CIOs.