How do EHR Users Interact With Fundamental Technologies [eBook series #2 of 6]

Previously we talked about two important fundamental technologies, Scan and Barcode. In this blog post we will briefly go over another mature technology which can be utilized to greatly enrich an EHR application and how do users benefit from these technologies through various scenarios.

The Power of Optical Character Recognition

Another common barrier to the acceptance of EHR applications is an inability to meaningfully use content in an image. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology can be used to make content in an image usable.

OCR is a mature technology with wide business uses. It extracts text from an image so it can be manipulated in a word processor or database. In other words, it turns an otherwise difficult-to-use image into meaningful content. In healthcare, it turns paperwork into powerful digital assets by extracting usable data from insurance forms, ID cards, doctor’s notes in a patient’s individual record, and so on.

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Using OCR to extract such information from documents and forms enables greater efficiencies by converting this information into meta tags for EHR files. One can think of metadata of a document as behind-the-scenes information about a file. It is all the associated pieces of information that are stored in an EHR database. Metadata can be both manually entered and automatically populated from barcodes or OCR results. With these capabilities, the system can also use metadata with PDF or TIFF files to enable auto indexing and other content management capabilities.

For example, if you want to find all patients under Dr. Jones or that use ACME Insurance, with metadata tagging you can quickly pull up this list. With this metadata, efficiencies are realized. These features save staff time from manual data entry and combing through physical files for information. It’s also proven to reduce human errors.

User Scenarios

Now we understand the fundamental technologies that enable the EHR system, it’s also very important to examine the possible ways a user would interact with these technologies in the application.

Barcode Scenarios

There are a variety of ways to use barcodes.

1. Document Routing

You can batch scan documents with barcodes and save the documents into different groups based on the barcode value. For example, with a 1D barcode that stores a patient ID, a patient record can be routed automatically to the correct patient folder. You can also use barcodes to identify the clinician who oversees the patient and route the related documents accordingly.

2. Inventory

For inventory, barcodes are useful for tracking medical devices or implantable devices. Medical devices are costly and represent significant investments that a healthcare facility makes. Using barcodes to track their location, such as when one device is checked out or in and by whom, can help prevent their theft or misplacement. For medical implants, the barcode can help populate a patient’s EHR with necessary information about that device or the performance of that device.

3. Asset Tracking

Barcodes can then be used to track devices given to a patient. This can work both ways. You can track a device to each patient it was given to and you can track who administered it. For the administrator, this can include a doctor, nurse or other staff. For tracking where the device came from, this can include suppliers or manufacturers. These trails in an EHR are all helpful in administering patient care or for managing device vendors and their transactions with you. This is just the tip of the iceberg for their potential inventory tracking uses. Virtually anything you want to assign or give to a patient can be inventoried and updated to the EHR with barcode technologies to maximize accuracy and efficiency.

4. Authentication

There are also obvious uses for barcodes in authentication procedures. These include authenticating a patient in a room or the patient’s doctor or nurse. For example, a barcode could be affixed to a physical record in a room to match with patient data in an EHR. This helps prevent administering the wrong care to the wrong patient. Barcodes can also be used to authenticate whether a procedure has already been administered or not, such as medication.

Barcodes might also be used to extend collaboration with pharmacists, to quickly automate access to an EHR’s prescription information for processing. In addition, they are widely used in laboratory and specimen collection to authenticate patients and test results. With real-time tracking tied to an EHR, test results can conveniently be updated, and the doctor instantly notified.5

OCR User Scenarios

When you scan a document, they usually are saved as an image type. You can tag these documents with key parameters for proper indexing. Sometimes these tags are not enough. You might need to search or edit content within a document. So, if someone completed a wrong social security number on a submitted paper form, you might want to later be able to correct that. This is where OCR technology helps. It will convert the text in a scanned image document to searchable and editable text. Full-text indexing can be automated with OCR. You can also have template fields correspond to specific document types.

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←Ultimate Enabling Technologies Behind Electronic Health Records [eBook series #1 of 6]

4 EHR Technical Requirements You Must Consider [eBook series #3 of 6]→

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