For 253-bed St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center, paper records had become a problem, especially for the Health Information Management Department. A large file room with an estimated space value of $700,000 was crammed with boxes of records covering several years. The hospital was already using an electronic healthcare information system, but did not have a way to convert the paper records into an electronic format for easy access. Getting the paper records scanned and stored, thus freeing up the valuable space occupied by the file room, fell to Lou Corts, the hospital’s HIM Director.
Corts described the situation as totally unworkable for the HIM file clerks. “They were literally down on their knees filing paper documents,” says Corts. “The HIM Department is located underground, quite a distance from some of the patient care areas that most frequently requested patient charts. If the HIM employees received a request for a chart, they had to go to the file room, search through hundreds of boxes, find what they needed, and then start hiking to the requesting department. Not only was it unproductive, it was ripe for misfiling when the record was returned to HIM. My goal was to empty the file room of six and one-half years of patient records, and get them into our electronic health care information system as quickly and as accurately as possible.”
With retirement fast-approaching, Corts wanted to get the file room and paper record challenges successfully off her plate. She called the system’s materials staff for help in identifying a resource that could help. Materials Management immediately referred Corts to EDCO Health Information Solutions, as the Novation-contracted supplier. “When I heard it was EDCO, I was really excited,” explains Corts. “I had known their account representative for many years. I really respected him, and I knew he was someone I could trust as a vendor.”
Novation facilitated the contact between Corts and EDCO, and soon an agreement was reached. Corts says that because EDCO was one of Novation’s preferred partners for document management services, it eliminated the hassle of interviewing several vendors and making a decision about with whom she and the hospital would work. The fact that EDCO had experience with Meditech clients also was a big plus, as was EDCO’s willingness to answer Corts’ questions and involve her throughout the design of the project.
Between November 2009 and mid-2010, the EDCO team visited the St. Patrick campus three times to box and transport tens of thousands of records for scanning, storing them on a St. Patrick internal website, and saving them on CDs. By taking this approach, EDCO provided Corts and the HIM Department with access to their records at all times.
As the project progressed, Corts’ trust in EDCO and its people deepened. “They followed through on everything they promised,” says Corts. “Every EDCO employee was easy to work with and they were committed to letting us know of any nuances such as EKGs in color taking up more space when scanned. When the EDCO employees arrived to begin emptying the file room, there was a supervisor and two other employees in addition to the truck driver. They were extremely respectful of our policies, and they went above and beyond the call of duty to respond to a request for a chart. In fact, we called them in the middle of the night once, and they jumped out of bed and found the record.”
“Bottom-line, EDCO delivered by scanning all of the documents accurately and efficiently,” says Corts. EDCO’s successful conclusion of the initiative meant personal peace of mind for Corts, knowing that the file room had been emptied of paper records and converted to an electronic format. For the department, it meant reduced labor costs and improved customer service. Three file clerks and one HIM representative were transitioned to other positions or left the hospital to pursue other opportunities. Hospital departments, medical staff, and insurance companies requesting patient records were pleased with the rapid turnaround the HIM department was able to provide thanks to the records being available online. Finally, the space previously occupied by the file room was available to be transformed into much-needed office space for the hospital.
“After 39 years as Director of HIM, I was riding on cloud nine when I retired because my goals of emptying the file room and converting the hundreds of boxes of patient records had been accomplished in the same year,” admits Corts. “I feel excellent about the outcome of both projects, and I feel good about turning over the reins of the department.”