Thinking of scanning your OASIS data?

Evolving technology is promising, but untested

Many agencies have started seeing advertisements and brochures about new scanning technology that promises to make collecting Outcome and Assessment Information Set (OASIS) data faster, easier, and cheaper. But according to one watchdog agency, few agencies implemented it or are far enough along in the process to be able to report positive results. Still, it might be worth investigating, says Joe Cortese, director of management information services at Montefiore Home Health in Bronx, NY.

Montefiore started looking at the different scanning technologies as a way to make data gathering and input more accurate. Cortese has looked at optical mark sense scanning, which reads cards with filled-in bubbles or squares and scanning that reads characters such as numbers and letters.

Currently, he is leaning towards the optical mark sense scanning, as its accuracy runs at about 99.5%. Scanning technology that can also read numbers has about 95% accuracy, Cortese adds. If you add letters, accuracy drops to about 85%.

"The big question is whether you can reduce what you need to scan to mark sense, or perhaps limit characters to digits," he says. "Then you have to know what happens when an error occurs. Most scanning schemes either stop and wait when there is an error, or read everything, and have a rejection cue where all the errors are stored. Someone has to sit and go through all of those unreadable items."

The differences in the scanning technologies, leaves Cortese wondering whether it will be faster, more accurate, and cheaper. He especially wonders about the latter.

"The programs I have looked at have base software costs of $4,000 to $8,000," he says. "There is a scanner, which costs $800 to $1,600. You also have to decide if you want a backup scanner. You need a fairly robust PC that will cost another $2,500. The price can easily go up to $10,000 to $12,000. And that’s just to have it sit there. There is also the forms, which in the case of OASIS I have seen . . . that run from 60 cents to $1.15 each. Then there is the human component of who will sit by the machine."

Some scanning companies will lease the technology. Scanning Concepts of Minneapolis can lease programs for as little as $500 per month, says education manager Laure Campbell, RN. That package includes the software, a bar code label printer, forms, and a scanner. The forms are standard, although you can have them customized. Depending on the length, they cost from 62 cents to $1.40 each, she says.

Cortese’s biggest problem is that he can’t find anyone who has used the scanning programs already to talk about them.

"Most vendors don’t have active users, although they may have pilot projects," he says. "Still, there is no one really out there who you can ask what their experience has been."

Montefiore still hasn’t made a decision on which, if any, scanning program to use. "We are still focusing more on collecting data in the field," Cortese says. "We can always use manual entry as a beginning while we wait for more information on scanning."

However, he believes that this is the wave of the future. "I believe in data-driven decision making. Without data, you are guessing in the dark. I think anything that makes data more accurate and available faster is a good idea."

Cortese would love to hear from others who have experienced this. In the meantime, he has the following advice for agencies thinking about scanning technology. "List your requirements. If you know you have a pool of clerical people available, that will have an impact. If you have no staff available, you’ll want a more automated system."


Joe Cortese, director of management information services, Montefiore Home Health, Bronx, NY. Telephone: (718) 405-4400.

Laure Campbell, RN, education manager, Scanning Concepts, Minneapolis, MN. Telephone: (800) 362-3282.