How To Improve Efficiency And Cut Costs With Digital Technology

By Bruce Werber, DPM

   Connecting the scanner to the computer requires a high-speed port. Some scanners require an SCSI interface card. Kofax boards are the most common and the best of their class. You can also find these on eBay. These interface cards range from $500 to $3,000. They allow the scanner to communicate at high speed with the computer, achieving the promised 50 to 70 pages per minute scan speeds. Some scanners will use a FireWire port and some require USB2. These types of ports are now found on newer computers and are also fairly inexpensive to add to an older computer, costing between $50 to $150.

   To understand how the scanner will connect to the computer, check out the Web site as well as the manufacturer’s Web site for details.

   The computer required for this archiving process is a Pentium 4 class machine with a CDRW, 256 MB of RAM, USB2 and/or FireWire ports. The computer should have a very large hard drive of at least 200 GB. The operating system can be XP Home. I prefer XP Professional since it allows easier networking to the office network.

What You Should Know About Other Helpful Tools

   One should also incorporate either a Webcam with 1.3 megapixels or memory, or a digital camera with a higher megapixel count. Your staff can use this camera for copying radiographs. We have a setup that includes a view box and a Logitech orbital Webcam. We take a picture of the radiograph and store it with the patient’s name and X-ray date.

   Paper management software is the last piece of the setup and two companies have very reasonably priced products. Scansoft sells Paperport for $100 to $160. Another one in the same price range is Papermaster by eFax. Both of these products are very easy to use. In setting up the program, one can create a virtual filing cabinet that contains patient charts. This makes it easy for the staff to find the old charts, invoices and EOBs very quickly.

A Guide To Simplifying Patient Records

   To simplify records, start by taking out a chart older than three years and organize the pages. Then place all of the papers in the chart in the scanner and scan them into a file with the patient’s name and date of birth. After scanning and confirming the chart info, shred it and discard the paper chart with a HIPAA-compliant waste company. Back up the hard drive daily to either a second external drive or a CD. Take the backup medium off premises.

   Utilizing the services of a minimum wage administrative worker, we scanned 20,000 charts in under eight weeks. The files are readily accessible on our office network. We can e-mail or print them out if necessary. They are in Acrobat PDF format so we can move them into an EMR program with minimal effort.

   As for additional scanning tricks, Ambir ( has small business card scanners for approximately $160 each. We use these scanners when the patient initially checks in at the office. The patients provide a copy of their insurance cards and driver’s licenses. We scan these documents into our practice management program.

   We have eliminated paper copies in the charts and there are no more questions as to the co-pay or dates of coverage. Without having to pull the chart and search through it, the card image is available to our billing and checkout departments. These scanners have the capability of optical character recognition (OCR) so one can directly import demographic data into the practice management system. This part still has some bugs that slow the process but it certainly has potential for the future.

   We now scan all of our EOBs as they come in with the checks so we can discard the paper version after posting and cashing the checks. Our office has also scanned old payroll and tax records, invoices, bank statements and checks.

In Conclusion

   As a result of these changes, we have regained space in several storage closets and have greatly improved office efficiency. Now we can easily find documents at minimal expense and within a minimal amount of time. We are gradually eliminating all of the paper that typically accumulates in a medical office.

Dr. Werber is a Fellow and Past President of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

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