Innovation Case Study: Paperless Medical Records
A new process eliminates paper medical record storage costs while improving record quality. Personal health information can help save lives. But is there such thing as too much information? LifeBridge Health, one of Maryland’s largest, most comprehensive health-care systems, discovered an opportunity to do away with redundant medical records while significantly improving the quality of patient health information. LifeBridge’s innovative solution reduced storage costs while increasing information accuracy and integrity—all with the goal of improving service delivery, efficiency, and patient outcomes.
Challenge: Reduce the Labor and Cost of Storing Paper Records
- Like many other health-care facilities, LifeBridge hospitals were retaining paper copies of medical records for years, even after transitioning to an electronic health information system with built-in digital backups.
- The time and cost of retaining the paper records was siphoning resources that could be better invested in improving the quality of the information in the digital records.
Approach: Apply Three Innovation Skills
- LifeBridge’s Director of System Health Information Management was a participant in the Innovator’s Accelerator® learning experience provided by Apollo Education Group. Through Innovator’s Accelerator, the Director learned key skills to generate innovative solutions. He applied three of those skills—questioning, observing, and experimenting—to address the issues of health record redundancy and quality at one of LifeBridge’s three acute-care hospitals.
- The Director applied the skill of questioning to re-examine time-worn processes. He applied the skill of observing to witness and analyze how staff members were maintaining both paper and digital files, and observed resulting gaps in the quality of the records. He used the skill of experimenting to pilot new quality-assurance processes and phase out the retention of paper duplicates in selected areas of the hospital, one after the other. Part of the experiment involved monitoring the outcome of temporarily eliminating paper records.
Solution: Improve Digital Data Capture
Having validated the effectiveness of the pilot through measured results, the Director institutionalized the new quality-assurance processes across all areas of patient care throughout the hospital. He implemented a digital-only record-keeping policy which streamlined and unified the record retention process. He then implemented the same policy and procedures at a second LifeBridge hospital, and plans to roll out the new processes at LifeBridge’s third hospital in the near future.
Outcome: Improve Clinical Quality and Reduce Costs
As a result of implementing an innovative solution, LifeBridge has succeeded in:
- Improving the quality, reliability, and usefulness of patient records
- Ensuring that the quality of patient health information supports the highest quality of clinical care
- Eliminating the costs of redundant paper record management and storage.
Over time, LifeBridge will realize cumulative cost savings that increase exponentially year over year, as long-term storage of paper records becomes a thing of the past.