How have you adapted to the electronic world?

October 15th, 2018 / By Cecilia Charles, RHIA

In today’s electronic world, is it possible to go completely paperless? Have you adapted to this new Jetsons-type world? Although it seems like yesterday, over a decade ago I managed a hospital Health Information Management (HIM) department. Part of my job was creating an operational budget that had to account for the annual cost of maintaining staff and supplies, a responsibility that evolved as the facility had set a goal of being a totally electronic environment.  At the time, taking paper documents and scanning them into an electronic system was their idea of an “electronic medical record.” Paper was still generated, but we scanned it and scheduled destruction after quality measures had been met. We still relied on temporary storage of files on shelving units. In our coding environment, we also continued to purchase codebooks and other resources in addition to the electronic software and reference tools.  

Leap to present day, all documents needed for coding are online, including querying via your favorite browser. Last year, after six months or so, I found I was no longer reaching for the huge paper codebook which took up most of the work space on my desk. So, this year I have opted to save money and use electronic resources instead of ordering paper reference books. I must admit I am a bit anxious “cutting the cord” on paper books.  

Some personal examples of my paper to electronic transition include:

  • Using direct deposits for my banking needs, including electronic statements.
  • Electronic bill payment with creditors and/or sent directly from my bank account for payment.
  • Let’s give a shout-out to the e-reader! This device is my new best friend. I now use it religiously for storing books, magazines, music and playing games. It has made traveling so much more efficient. I no longer pack or carry around numerous different types of periodicals. My visits to the doctor’s office or coffee shop no longer involve being subjected to viewing media on their TV.
  • And, what about the boxes and boxes of photos stored in scrapbooks, shoeboxes and drawers? I love to capture memories through photography, but now I store online and share whenever needed. For me, that took care of the numerous rolls of film that never got developed and SD cards that contain breathtaking, prize-winnings shots that no one will ever see.

For those of us that once upon a time hoarded paper in the belief that “I may need to retrieve this one day:” Let’s be honest. Who really wants to dig in files or boxes for stored paper otherwise known as clutter? With my newly adapted “minimalist” mindset, the less clutter the better my organizational skills have become. Adapting to electronic notes has reduced my paper piles and improved my organizing for real-time retrieval.  Items deemed “must keep,” can be scanned, indexed and stored in the cloud, on an external hard-drive or on a flash drive. It has been a challenge to avoid creating paper documents, but gradually I have reduced my costs not only for my work-life but my personal home budget as well.

In the HIM world, tremendous strides have been made to transition from a paper to electronic world. We now have most documents produced online, use coding applications instead of paper books and rely on office software in place of handwritten notes. As for the patient, electronic tools have made scheduling appointments much easier and made discharge instructions and billing and payment much more efficient. Along with the convenience of having pharmacy scripts generated electronically and sent directly to the neighborhood pharmacy, electronic resources have helped us adapt to the new electronic environment.

Whether consciously or not, we have moved to a Jetsons-type world. Now I am just waiting for Rosie the robot to clean my house.