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Kaiser Permanente's Electronic Document Management

Physicians employed by Kaiser Permanente's Los Angeles-based Department of Cardiac Surgery were waiting as long as 24 to 48 hours to receive patient records from primary care physicians. In situations where a few hours can make a critical difference in a patient's life, such delays were unacceptable. Therefore, administrators at Cardiac Surgery were eager to find a fast, accurate means of document storage and retrieval.

In search of a more efficient process, Kaiser Permanente set up an electronically managed system where patients' records were OCR scanned as TIFF documents into numbered files. However, the OCR-based system could not easily handle discharge and operation summaries that were later faxed and that had to be appended to the patient records. The solution came in the form of a cost-effective information management package that works with a variety of OCR scanners. The software quickly imports and indexes a wide range of document formats, including data that can be faxed directly to the CD-based records.

Kaiser Permanente's Cardiac Surgery department is now using OCR scanning and faxing to manage all patient records electronically. Retrieving files for operating physicians takes about five minutes. Previously there was a two- to three-month lag between patient discharge and the time the discharge summary was available at the primary care physician's office. Now reports are ready in half that time, and Kaiser Permanente's medical word processing department is moving toward a goal of 48 hours. Response to the electronic document management system has been so positive that Kaiser Permanente plans to expand it.

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