Justify Before you Buy: Automated Capture for Clinical Data - Part 1

Your department is overwhelmed with data entry. Incoming faxes with lab results and other clinical data swamp your staff. You are beginning to worry about quality of care and data entry errors. Your staff is wondering if they are here to help patients or to improve their typing skills. 

So, you finally found the perfect solution to your problem. It’s a system that automates this data entry and the workflows surrounding the entire document handling and quality assurance processes. So, now it’s time to go ask for permission (budget) to purchase this solution.

Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, this process will differ in terms of the details and number of steps, but ultimately, you will need to prove two things to someone above you: (1) that this solution will provide significant costs savings, productivity improvements, safety improvements, etc. for your department (tactical items) AND (2) you will need to convince them of how important this solution is compared to the many other budget requests they are getting (strategic items). In this blog series, we will offer advice of things to consider including in your ROI justification.

As a department head or senior department member, you know what makes your department tick. Obviously, your justification needs to focus on these items and lay out the savings and improvements that your department can gain from this type of automation. Remember, however, just saving the time and efforts of your staff will not likely get your project anywhere near the top of the IT project priority list for the whole organization. Important will be that you focus on the tactical items that prove the day-to-day justification case, but also lay out the strategic benefits of the solution for both your department and possibly other departments if applicable. Let’s start with the basic tactical justification:

The Tactical Basics: Medical assistants’ time and additional staffing requirements. These will be easiest to measure and give you a clear number.

First, to calculate labor & time savings, gather statistics from the vendor for expected reduction in time to enter the same amount of clinical data as you are today. Calculate the costs savings and then be sure to calculate the increased savings as your program grows.

Next, be sure to present your ability to reduce your need for temp help. If your department requires extra help today because your staff cannot keep up with the requirements, calculate how many extra hours you would gain from your FTE’s with such an automated system and use these hours to reduce the cost of temp help for your department.

Finally, consider the costs of training/onboarding new data entry staff. With highly automated processes, defined workflow and automated validation of data, new staff can become more productive and accurate in a shorter period of time. The solution will catch illogical inputs and can be configured to inform users of any invalid information before allowing them to proceed. By shortening the time to being fully productive and accurate, you can reduce costs further.

These cost savings will be very important to have in your justification, but remember, this alone will not get your project towards the top of the pile. In the grand scheme of things, saving $50K, $100K or even $200K a year on labor costs will not build enough of a business case against other projects.

So, you’ve covered the basics with these calculations, but what does this solution do to improve Quality of Care, data quality, and clinical staff satisfaction, while reducing other clinical costs and improving your ability to meet compliance requirements.   Stayed tuned to find out!


About the Author: Ellen Bzomowski

With 20 years of experience in data capture and voice recognition, Ellen’s experience has focused on achieving higher efficiency and automation in getting data where it will be most useful to an organization. At Extract Systems, she continues to focus on the same ideas and works to get the word out about how Extract Systems’ advanced data capture and redaction solutions make more data valuable and accessible, while securing anything that is private. She holds an MBA from Northeastern University and lives and works in Boston.