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May 28 2013   8:00AM GMT

Implementing EHR? Streamline analysis with automatic identification and data capture

Posted by: Jenny Laurello
AIDC, EHR implementation, medical errors, point of care

robert-leibrandtGuest post by Rob Leibrandt, senior market manager, Camcode,

Healthcare organizations are turning to electronic health records and point of care technology to increase productivity and efficiency. Proper documentation has always been a critical component of healthcare delivery, but the likelihood of human error in manual processes creates problems such as misinformation, inaccurate billing and can even lead to devastating consequences for patients in the most severe circumstances.

Electronic health records eliminate many of these concerns, and more providers are implementing EHRs every day. There are dozens of information sources that must be seamlessly combined for a comprehensive medical record in outpatient, acute and long-term care settings, including radiology reports, laboratory testing, pharmacy records, medical devices and supplies. When EHR and point of care (POC) are combined with the benefits of automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) for physical products, the process of data analysis becomes more functional.

What is AIDC?

Automatic identification and data capture is a process for identifying entities and processes using machine readable methods.  In this article we will focus on its use for physical assets.  Most often, whether for people or equipment, the solutions center on scannable bar code labels. These provide a foundation to easily and accurately enter data, pull up essential related data, improve patient care and reduce costs. AIDC can be used for medical devices, supplies and even advanced technological equipment for tracking maintenance, replacements, condition and location with ease. In the healthcare setting, AIDC can be used to track medical technology equipment, such as equipment found in radiology departments and laboratories.

The importance of accuracy in data capture

The healthcare industry is complex. Coordinating care for a single patient across multiple departments and specialties is challenging enough, let alone trying to maintain accurate records and deliver proper care to hundreds of patients simultaneously. Manual data collection leaves too much room for human error, which can impact a number of facets of a healthcare practice.

  • Billing: Billing is one of the most error-filled areas in the healthcare system. The vast majority of billing errors can be traced back to inaccurate data collection and documentation. Billing issues are both time-consuming and costly, as records must be revisited, benefits reanalyzed and bills resubmitted for approval and payment.
  • Medical errors: The consequences can be devastating for patients when inaccurate data capture results in medical errors. Even the most skilled physicians and other practitioners make occasional mistakes. Some errors can be reduced with precise data collection and documentation. Poor record-keeping can result in administering the wrong medication or wrong dosage to a patient.
  • Inventory and re-ordering: Outpatient medical practices, emergency departments, hospitals, pharmacies and ancillary care providers must be equipped to meet patients’ needs at all times. When a provider runs out of a critical medication, patients’ lives are put at risk. Automatic identification and data capture enables providers to keep precise inventory controls. Providers can generate orders automatically — through alerts and/or data exchange — reducing the likelihood that inventory will run out during times of need.

New advancements provide instant and accurate EHR access for providers

Recent advancements include the use of patient-specific barcode wristbands which can be scanned by mobile devices, allowing physicians and other providers to instantly access the appropriate EHR for a patient, including their entire medical history, recent diagnostic tests, imaging results, lab work and more. This reduces the potential for errors introduced when providers must leave the exam room to obtain records or rely on less accurate electronic retrieval methods in which bar code identification systems aren’t utilized. A single keystroke can mean the difference between accessing the correct record and providing the proper treatments, and serious errors which can have devastating consequences. The potential for such errors is drastically reduced when using barcode identification.

The development and use of these new technologies points to the importance of speed and accuracy in healthcare. Using systems such as wristband barcodes can streamline the admissions process in acute care settings, speeding the delivery of critical care while offering ancillary benefits, including reductions in billing errors and other documentation.

How AIDC can help

Implementing EHR takes a great deal of planning, beginning with assessing the readiness of your practice and ending with meaningful use. Automatic identification and data capture can prepare you for assessing your success and compliance with meaningful use metrics, including:

  • Better inventory control.
  • More efficient reordering.
  • Reductions in medical errors, including medication dosages.
  • Reductions in billing errors.
  • More accurate adverse event reporting.
  • Improvements in patient care.

Automatic identification conducted using bar code labels ensures that providers are equipped with complete background information on each patient. That means it takes less time to obtain records from other providers and gather up-to-date information on the medications a patient is taking. A patient’s full medical history can also be obtained, including information about past surgeries, chronic illnesses, serious medical events and more.

Expensive technology equipment must be adequately maintained to ensure accuracy. Bar code labels provide an efficient means for identifying equipment across a healthcare organization, specifying locations, tracking maintenance and repair history. The FDA has proposed a rule that would require all medical devices meeting certain criteria to contain unique device identifiers (UDI). This is another area in which bar code labels enhance both compliance and the patient experience through accurate documentation. The proposed rule would enable bar code labels to ensure rapid replacement of recalled equipment and precise maintenance documentation to ensure these assets are in proper working order for patient safety.

Automatic identification and data capture adds value to patient-specific supplies and devices. With a simple scan, medication inventory can be accurately tracked in a physician’s office or pharmacy and reordering can be streamlined — reducing the likelihood that a patient’s life-saving medication is out of stock. This also reduces problems such as billing a patient for supplies that were actually used elsewhere or never used at all. This is due to AIDC’s ability to automatically identify and assign the correct supplies and medications to the appropriate patient record.

In all of these applications, AIDC serves as a supplementary, yet critical component of EHR and POC.  Armed with the information obtained through AIDC, providers are able to provide more comprehensive care to each patient through streamlined processes, reduce billing errors and improve the efficiency of medical care delivery.

Read more from Rob Leibrandt on the benefits of auto ID and data capture, as well as the development of the UDI rule on Camcode’s blog.

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