The centralized faxing/scanning conundrum

The centralized vs. de-centralized faxing conundrum seems to be a topic with every healthcare organization we encounter.

In theory, centralizing your incoming documents seems like a grand idea. You have a core group of people who do things consistently, know the documents and are managed by a single department.


Yet, when you peek behind the curtains, it gets quite complex. In our experience, approximately 45% of the documents coming into an outpatient department need to be reviewed or signed by the physician. These are documents such as prior authorization requests, plan of care documents, prescription refills, medical necessity documents, and more. When we hear that an organization has a "centralized" scanning and faxing workflow, it typically means that clinics are receiving faxes, processing 45% of the documents manually, and then re-faxing or couriering everything to the HIM department for them to deal with.

This means that every document coming into your organization is being triaged twice.

That doesn't make the idea of centralized faxing and scanning incorrect, it just means that it could be done more effectively.

The MA's processing scans and faxes at the clinic often pick the wrong document type. They type in inconsistent descriptions. They scan to the incorrect patient. They scan multi-patient documents to a single patient. They pick the wrong date of service. Yet, they also know the patients, know the doctor's workflows, and know the documents and their context.

What about a hybrid solution that centralizes what needs to be centralized and takes the guesswork out of the rest? Making sure the right person is processing the documents for patients they know best, but also ensuring they are consistently doing things that makes your HIM department happy?

Close your eyes and picture this. A fax enters any department and we automatically know what type of document it is. The ones that should go to HIM, go to HIM. The ones that should go to the clinic, go to the clinic. But wait, there's more! What if we automatically pull the appropriate index data from the document? The patient, the date of service, the description, and whatever else you need. What we if we automatically pull in the MRN and make it easy to choose the appropriate order or encounter from the EMR with solid integration?

What if we even know who it should be routed to once it hits the EMR based on the patient's recent visits and orders in that department? What if we could automatically propose that multi-patient documents be split and filed separately? What if your HIM department could QA a random percentage of documents being processed by the clinics and run analytics on accuracy?

If this were possible, would your HIM department be a little more willing to delegate this responsibility? Would your entire organization think a little differently about the burden of incoming faxes? Would a hybrid between centralized and de-centralized seem a little more palatable?

In our experience, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES!

Let the Extract Platform do the work for you! We have many happy healthcare customers doing exciting things to reduce the impact of incoming unstructured documents. These include extensive discrete result filing, incoming order requisition automation, pathology data warehouse population, enterprise document classification/routing, and more. Our platform is as flexible as you are. Tell us your need and we can help you to solve your faxing and scanning woes across the enterprise.

About the Author: Rob Fea

Rob Fea leads the Professional Services and Data Capture teams at Extract. Rob plays a large role in software implementation, customer success, process improvement, and product design. Rob’s primary focus is on the healthcare suite of products. Prior to Extract, Rob spent 12 years partnering with IT teams and clinicians at major hospitals and clinics worldwide during his tenure on the technical services team at Epic. Rob supported Epic's Phoenix product, playing a major role in project kickoffs, installation, data conversions, ongoing support, and optimization. Rob watched the Phoenix customer base expand from zero to 55. This experience gave Rob expansive insight into the healthcare world, especially the solid organ transplant industry. Rob has spent countless hours on the floor in transplant departments observing multidisciplinary visits, committee review meetings, data entry, data trending, reporting, medication dosing, and more.