Fax Document Management: Focus on Rural Health Care Facilities

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Fax Document Management: Focus on Rural Health Care Facilities

Posted on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

Outdated fax technology and physician order management are costing hospitals thousands, every month. In particular, small and rural health care facilities are wasting resources on fax station administration, printing, scanning, follow-ups, rejections, filing, etc. And they’re unlikely to eliminate fax-based documents any time soon.  (Referring physicians are still dependent on faxed physician orders, not to mention hospitals’ fax exchanges with insurance companies and other third parties.)


But hospitals can eliminate the risks and inefficiencies that old-school faxing creates. And in most cases, the technology and expertise required to do it cost less than the consumables alone (ink, copy paper) associated with physical fax machines and printouts.

We asked Brian Schnitker, Product Manager at HealthWare Systems Inc., to walk us through what’s happening inside today’s small and rural health care systems. Here’s what he told us:

The Problem

In our “big-box store” culture, we’re trained to assume the biggest, best-known players carry all the tools we need. But when it comes to health IT and EHR vendors, the big guys haven’t solved everything—certainly not for rural health care facilities and critical access hospitals.  Although some have added CPOE (computerized physician order entry) modules to their electronic health record products, inbound physician orders/faxed documents still need to be collected, scanned, and uploaded manually.

“There are three ways hospitals are handling this now,” said Schnitker. “A lot of sites I’ve gone to are still doing paper. The second way: they have some electronic functionality in place, but it usually amounts to a PDF being generated and stored on a shared network. That means someone has to manually rename and save each file. The third approach I see is like the second, except the files are dumped into email, which is equally inefficient while posing huge security risks.”

The Solution

Mindful of these hospital realities, Schnitker points to ActiveXCHANGE, a unique document management solution that acts as a central image repository for electronic faxes as well as traditional fax exchanges (primarily physician orders, insurance forms, test results, etc.).  XCHANGE offers automatic indexing, simple search/retrieval capabilities, image encryption, permission-based access, and HIPAA-compliant audit trails. It also builds a workflow behind each type of document, configurable to suit any set of processes a facility wants to attach.

Finally, XCHANGE is unlike other document management solutions in its release engine function. XCHANGE can “release” files to any third-party system (including an EHR), so there’s no more manual work to bridge the disconnect between fax machines/fax servers and hospitals’ recordkeeping systems. In fact, XCHANGE is already being used in dozens of seamless health IT system integrations.

The Ideal Partner

Whether you’re ready to read actual success stories about hospitals using ActiveXCHANGE , or you’re still researching multiple products and partners, keep in mind that fax document management can’t be solved with an out-of-the-box tool. You need to choose a provider who delivers more than just first-rate software; look for a consultative partner, who is willing to listen and support you well beyond a signed contract.

On your end, this means bringing the partner into your facility, so they can learn your processes and challenges, and then configure document indexing and workflows accordingly (if they’re willing and able to configure their products at all). It also means connecting partners with your end users, for education and training.   “We’re not just installing,” explained Schnitker. “We’re knee deep in defining the process—looking at what the facility or department is doing today versus what they want to be doing in the long run.”

At the end of the day, a true document management solution should do more than just replace your physical file cabinets with digital storage space; it should fundamentally improve the way your teams operate and the experiences your patients have.

The First Steps

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem… But when it comes to HIT buying, the list of subsequent steps is often ten miles long. No question, HIT buying cycles have gotten longer and more complex. More stakeholders are getting looped into the decision-making process. Budgets are more closely guarded. And overall, hospitals and health systems are more risk-averse/regulation-bound.

In the case of fax document management, buying doesn’t have to involve a full IT committee—especially considering the size of the investment. (Did you know: when 10 or more people are involved in a software purchase, the decision takes at least four months, 80% of the time?)  If your small or rural health care facility is wasting time and money on faxing and filing, start outlining cost-saving opportunities for your decision makers today.

ActiveXCHANGE (formerly ActiveFAX) Creates Real Savings for Hospitals

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HealthWare Systems Blog

ActiveXCHANGE (formerly ActiveFAX) Creates Real Savings for Hospitals

Posted on Tue, Nov 03, 2015

When fax solutions get removed from the IT agenda, so do a lot of cost-saving opportunities—some pretty big ones, in fact. That’s why we’re dedicating our fall blog calendar to the issue of faxes in healthcare, and to tools like ActiveXCHANGE (formerly ActiveFAX).  We would like to reopen the conversation at your facility…

Faxing isn’t sexy. We get it.

No one likes to invest in outdated technology—least of all cash-strapped hospital leaders, with one eye on patient data security and the other on EHR adoption/interoperability goals. But “outdated” is a relative term. And when you look at the reality inside many admissions or surgical departments—and the paper chase surrounding faxed physician orders, third-party test results, insurance documents, etc.—calling faxes “outdated” is far from accurate.

Thousands of hospitals still receive a high volume of faxes every day—especially smaller facilities and those serving rural communities. Just look at any current job post seeking patient access associates or medical orders specialists. You’ll see that fax-based responsibilities (collecting, copying, scanning, verifying) are anything but obsolete.

Besides that, investing in improved fax management doesn’t mean overhauling your legacy infrastructure and pouring money into the latest and greatest hardware. On the contrary, it means adding a simple layer of software to augment your fax server (or replace your physical machines if you’re still offline).  With ActiveXCHANGE (formerly ActiveFAX) specifically, it means putting a standardized workflow/indexing system behind all fax exchanges, so your teams can eliminate busy work along with lost files and orders.

Here are five areas in which ActiveXCHANGE creates actual savings:

1. Reviewing, Filing, and Retrieving Orders

Clients often tell us that before implementing ActiveXCHANGE, they maintained stacks of pending physician orders, waiting to be collected, reviewed, and addressed. A standardized, digital workflow for faxes not only improves staff productivity, it improves patient experiences in the form of faster, more professional service.

2. Providing Faxed Information to Ancillary Departments

Here again, when orders and test results need to be forwarded internally, teams lose time on fax transmission, confirming the receipt of materials, etc. With a manual process, you’re also opening the door to wrong fax numbers/departments and unintended recipients. By letting associates route faxes directly and securely with the click of a button, ActiveXCHANGE helps YOU reclaim hours of work.

3. Handling Incomplete Orders

What percentage of your physician orders are faxed back to physicians due to missing information? How long does it take to fill out a cover sheet and send a reply to the physician’s office, or else call for clarification? Meanwhile, what are you doing to measure these occurrences, and work with referring physicians/partners to avoid them?

4. Checking Orders for Medical Necessity

In a 2013 study sponsored by the American Hospital Association, 96% of hospitals reported that medical necessity denials were the most costly, complex denials involving CMS. Sixty-three percent of hospitals said they spent more than $10K managing the RAC process during the first quarter of 2013 alone; 46 percent spent more than $25K, and 10 percent spent over $100K.

By contrast, facilities utilizing ActiveXCHANGE can reduce denials associated with medical necessity by up to 100%.

5. Eliminating Copy Costs and Lost Orders

At high-volume fax facilities, it’s not uncommon to receive 50,000 faxes per month. Let’s say your facility receives just a fraction of that volume: 20 percent, or 10,000 faxes per month. And let’s say half of those faxes need to be printed in order to share them with patients or outside departments. At an estimated cost of $0.45 per printout (ink, toner, paper), your consumable costs total more than $2,200 per month—not including machine maintenance or the labor associated with refilling paper trays/ink supplies.

Are you comfortable wasting $2,200 per month on faxing’s material costs alone? There’s a smarter, more cost-effective solution. We can walk you through it in about 15 minutes…