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Going Paperless? Here’s what you should know

One very common question I receive from addictions, substance use and mental health treatment providers is how they can go COMPLETELY paperless within their organization. I would say a majority of providers understand that it’s not as simple as implementing an electronic health record and “poof” we’re there! Just like anything, there’s some proper planning and some questions to answer before moving towards that goal of going “paperless”.

What is your definition of going paperless?

Yes, ideally, every paper and pencil form that clinicians fill out would be in electronic format right? Well, from my experience, most of the time going paperless doesn’t really mean fully paperless. Many agencies have other stakeholders that influence their workflow. For example, an agency that contracts with a state authority or private contract, might have a paper form requirement, thus you still have a paper trail.

So what most agencies mean when they talk about going paperless, is to have a way, to replace the paper filing cabinet with an electronic filing cabinet. Therefore, even if you can’t fully replace paper forms with electronic ones, because of an outside authority or influence, you can still find a way to electronically FILE those records, so that the client’s CHART is paperless.

Basic features your EHR should have when going paperless

  • Web or cloud based: At minimum on a local network. If the system can’t be accessible from multiple workstations, it limits accessibility. With today’s environment (and the work from home/remote access needs), secure cloud-based systems are an essential need.
  • Create/customize your own forms and/or fields: This is a great way to convert your agency’s specific paper forms into a digital format. Other benefits include: capturing raw data for reporting and analysis, flexibility and scalability to meet grant reporting requirements, and standardizing data collection (i.e. making responses to certain fields restricted to certain answers). Some EHR vendors will convert your forms for you at a more efficient cost than having one of your staff do it.
  • Upload external records/files/images: Client insurance, driver’s license, artwork, etc. Other external records you typically put in their file cabinet, should now be scanned and uploaded into their e-chart.
  • Electronic Signatures: Use of stylus or other e-signature devices can allow your agency to store staff and supervisor signatures (from the stylus) so when they enter their password it automatically stamps their signature onto a document. It should also allow clients and/or collateral to physically sign off using the hardware for each record (it should NOT store the client’s signature).

There are other features to consider, however, I believe these are some of the core things you should look for when evaluating your workflow and readiness to “go green”.

Dylan Lambrecht, Account Specialist/Orion Healthcare Technology

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If you are looking for an EHR system to go paperless, Orion Healthcare Technology can help! We offer an EHR cloud-based clinical and billing software suite called AccuCare which can integrate with your daily processes and procedures. This product offers features to customize your own forms, upload external files and capture electronic signatures. This secure, HIPAA ready software, can take the worry out of clinical documentation and record keeping. They offer multiple options for cloud-based storage which we would be happy to discuss with you in detail. If you don’t have the staff or the time to build the forms yourself, you can hire us to build the forms within your database. The option is yours!

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