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Make patient documentation more flexible with SharePoint

Enterprise content management systems, such as Microsoft's SharePoint, can aid clinical staff with patient documentation tasks.

In most hospitals, clinicians rely heavily on internal clinical systems for patient documentation. However, there are still gaps in the collection and management of patient information in other patient care settings. Organizations that perform clinical trials and research favor enterprise content management systems as their choice to help with their clinical documentation needs.

There are numerous enterprise content management packages for healthcare providers to choose from. For many of them, their organizational requirements are met by Microsoft's SharePoint platform. This product is a browser-based content management system that offers a wide range of functions. It has been adopted by hospitals to serve as a document repository for their human resources, IT, clinical and other departments. Other health organizations have built it into an interactive, scalable and flexible Web application that can streamline and support complex workflows and route information. Whether SharePoint is hosted in the cloud or on-premises, it can improve patient documentation.

Ways to enhance patient documentation

Platform customization
SharePoint can be used to offer flexible intake forms to collect patient information in any care setting. With its ability to connect to different data sources, SharePoint users have the ability to customize patient forms, allowing them to gather specific clinical documentation.

Advanced workflow functions
The workflows within SharePoint are seen by many users as one of its greatest assets. In a healthcare setting, being able to route patient documentation or data for review through SharePoint is extremely helpful because it eliminates some of the manual processes that clinical staff would otherwise have to perform. SharePoint can also be used to notify clinicians of the admittance or transfer of certain patients within their facility. For example, if a patient is being evaluated as part of a special patient registry and the patient's lab results return something that requires specialist care, the patient's case can be routed to a clinician with expertise in that field.

Security and HIPAA compliance
When dealing with clinical information electronically, ensuring the security and compliance of the system is a must. On-premises installations of SharePoint inherit the existing security protocols maintained by IT department, and with few adjustments most installations will meet the regulatory requirements of HIPAA. Microsoft offers several levels of protection for SharePoint that have been audited and approved to meet security requirements, including HIPAA and the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 Part 11, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration rule which regulates electronic records.

Another key element that can make SharePoint a secure environment is its ability to integrate with information rights management (IRM) system for further protection. Information can be locked down at the document level by way of IRM. If a hospital was looking to separate patients based on a specific criteria and limit the visibility of that patient population to certain clinicians, it could be done with IRM. Printing, downloading and editing capabilities can also be disabled through IRM.

Care coordination
It is common to hear SharePoint users label it as a collaborative platform. SharePoint helps centralize information, but also enables different users to work on the same documents and content simultaneously, while tracking the changes. SharePoint also lets care exchange notes, tasks and patient documentation under one system. These collaborative functions will become more relevant as the healthcare industry transitions toward shared savings payment models and accountable care organizations.

Online connectivity
Microsoft currently offers its platform both online and on premises, allowing organizations to pick which would work best in their situation. The cloud-hosted version can come with Microsoft Office 365, but can also be purchased alone. For many, the online solution is the most cost-effective over the long term, as it eliminates internal management tasks, while still permitting access to all the same features of the on-premises version.

System integration
Healthcare entities operate with different data sources. Information flows in and out of many systems, including from lab systems, medical imaging, patient registration, registries and EHRs. Through SharePoint, users can securely exchange information through Web services and different APIs. This allows users to load data in and out of the platform and ensures they won't be required to enter data in multiple places.

Web-based products and enterprise content management systems such as SharePoint are highly customizable platforms with a certain appeal to healthcare professionals. Able to customize intake forms, manage workflows, collaborate, and efficiently maintain content, SharePoint has been widely adopted in healthcare and its use continues to grow.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email [email protected] or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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