Save $4,500 yearly on paper costs

Departments save thousands in toner

Before a new electronic medical record system was implemented at Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, registrars made a minimum of five copies of the patient's order, the face sheet, the appointment record, and patient label sheets. They sent all of these to clinical departments.

"We received two or three copies of faxed orders from the physicians or departments, per procedure," says Tanya Powell, patient access director for Ochsner's North Shore region.

After an electronic medical record system was implemented, paper costs were cut from $6,300 a year to $1,788, which resulted in more than $4,500 in savings for the patient access department, she reports.

The department is also saving money in toner costs and having less downtime due to non-working copy and fax machines, she says. "Time management and stress management are large, intangible metrics that are difficult to capture in dollars," says Powell.

Since patient access staff can access information on departmental appointments electronically, this access eliminates the "volumes of paper" required for each scheduled admission or procedure, says Powell. "Previously, registrars used 16 applications to execute a patient registration/admission. Now, we use one," she adds.

$9,000 is saved

The patient access department at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston saved $9,000 annually in combined paper and toner costs in four years after implementing a paperless system, reports Bridgette Murray, RN, MBA, CHAM, associate director of patient access services.

Murray says she's also seen "soft savings" because it's much easier for registrars to find documents required for claims processing. "There is increased patient satisfaction, related to fewer requests to produce the same document for multiple departments," she says.

Document sharing by pharmacy and patient billing services has improved workflow efficiency as well as increased patient satisfaction, adds Murray. "Patients that qualify for financial assistance were generally asked to produce similar documents by patient access and pharmacy for drug replacement programs related to income and residency," she notes.

Most of the documents that registrars normally would print are now electronically linked to the patient record, such as photo identification, insurance cards, authorization approvals, and online benefit verifications, she adds.

"Documents received via the fax server are linked by staff to the patient's record from their desktop," she says. "Any user with a business need for the document has access from their desktop."