The More Efficient Medical Office: Less (Paper) is More

October 14, 2014
Nick Weeks

EHRs are not the only way your practice can cut down on paper usage. Here are four other ways practices can save paper, time, and money.

As administrators, providers, insurers, and a number of other healthcare actors attempt to generate healthier profit margins while maintaining care standards, much of the conversation is focused on the need for reimbursement increases (and there’s a case to be made for that). But many practices are ignoring real savings opportunities by not adopting tools that can reduce employee time, equipment costs, and paper expense. In fact, many of these opportunities are low-cost or free, and can modernize your office in a way that helps both patient care and business needs.

The healthcare industry has historically been a slave to the paper trail. But that’s all starting to change with the implementation of EHR systems, and the adoption of tablets by medical providers.

While these are major changes with obvious paper-saving advantages, there are also more subtle ways to make your practice almost paperless. Here are four of our favorites:

1. Paperless statements
Probably the most widely known method of reducing paper usage is switching to paperless statements and automatic bill-pay for recurring charges your practice incurs. This not only saves paper, but also considerable time because the bills never reach the accounting department and therefore never need to be reviewed, stuck in an envelope, stamped, and sent out in the mail. Many banks also offer incentives to sign up for automatic bill-pay … bonus!

2. E-fax
The amount of faxed information coming into a healthcare practice can be daunting and the cost of leasing and maintaining a fax machine to churn out copies of all those documents can get quite expensive. Consider getting an e-fax account instead. Incoming faxes can be received as attachments (PDF files) to a designated e-mail address instead of automatically being printed. This saves time when the documents need to be archived and integrated into the practice EHR system, not to mention reduces the likelihood of a fax being lost or misfiled, and also saves money on paper and ink.

3. E-signature
Now that you have those documents in PDF form, you may need to print them and add a signature, which would defeat the purpose of the e-fax, right? Well, luckily, there are several programs, such as Docusign, that allow the addition of an e-signature to documents, which means you never need to print them. E-signatures are legally binding and save both time and money, because they can be used to sign a digital document without ever printing it.

4. Collaborative document creation
Google Drive is a great example of a collaborative document creation tool that allows users to simultaneously work on a document with no need to print anything. Oftentimes people are worried about versions of documents being altered and saved, so they’ll print a copy of a document for a colleague to review and mark-up. With Google Drive and Google Docs, colleagues can simultaneously edit the same document, with the ability to restore previous versions in case something goes wrong. Google Drive also allows for mass document storage, so there’s no need to keep hard copies of those documents locked away in a banker’s box somewhere.

These are just a few of the ways you can implement easy changes to make your office less dependent on paper and, as a byproduct, more efficient and more profitable.