Electronic medical records are not just the future – they are the environmental way of managing patient charts.
It’s a smart move, too. For businesses, converting to electronic records often saves money in the long run. Physicians and healthcare providers in particular can free up space that used to contain patient charts and old medical records. Rooms, once taken up by filing cabinets holding patient records from decades ago, can now be used for additional storage or even another exam room.
Digital records and electronic medical record systems have an additional benefit: They help the environment and they eliminate the need for a paper conversion chart.
Electronic Records: No More Need for a Paper Conversion Chart
While the old-fashioned might consider paper to be easier and simpler than a computer, it’s not necessarily true. The use of paper brings with it various complications. What type and weight of paper is needed for various purposes? Does the paper need to offer duplicates? Is the size and strength of the paper enough for the job?
For this reason, people have utilized a paper conversion chart to determine the best size and weight of paper for a particular project. But with electronic records, much of this becomes unnecessary.
Certainly, medical offices still rely on paper questionnaires to give to patients prior to seeing a doctor, but these can be uniform pieces of paper that can be easily scanned. In the future, more and more doctor’s offices will utilize computer tablets for patients to fill out information.
In the meantime, the trend in healthcare is towards paper chart conversion of medical records.
3 Major Environmental Costs of Paper Production
The first thing to remember is that no amount of human activity is free from environmental impact. Computers, tablets, and scanning machines all have an environmental cost, not just in terms of raw materials, but the electricity that must be generated to power them.
That said, paper has a tremendous environmental impact, especially when it is used indiscriminately. Here are just a few of the environmental sustainability problems with paper:
1. Energy Costs
Paper costs a lot of money to produce as well as transport. According to Wikipedia, “Worldwide, the pulp and paper industry is the fifth largest consumer of energy, accounting for four percent of all the world’s energy use.”
2. Paper Waste
Approximately 40% of the waste generated in the United States is paper, which is 71.6 million tons each year. Despite recycling efforts, most of this paper ends up in a landfill.
3. Environmental Pollution
Paper production pollutes the air and water. Paper requires a lot of water to produce. This does not include the chemicals, such as chlorine, that are used to bleach paper.
Some steps have been taken to mitigate the environmental impact of paper production. For example, instead of cutting down old forests, many paper companies today use more sustainable farming practices by growing trees that can regenerate quickly.
Still, generating a lot of paper that is ultimately going to sit in a file, possibly for decades, doesn’t really make much sense now. Electronic records are simply more efficient.
5 Business and Environmental Benefits of Electronic Medical Records Instead of Paper Charts
Digital records have a lot of benefits, some for the environment and some for the bottom line. Here are just a few:
1. Reduce Paper Usage
Paper chart conversion to computers helps the environment by reducing usage of paper products. Nurses and doctors can easily access the chart information through a computer terminal or tablet instead of printing out more paper. Notes can be added in the computer instead of on additional paper.
2. Streamline Processes
Medical records that are in electronic form can be updated in the computer. These updates can then be seen immediately by other medical professionals.
3. Improve Collaboration
Doctors who want to share patient records with other physicians in a different office location can immediately send electronic records without requiring a courier or a slow trip through the mail.
4. Create More Environmental Awareness
Staff and patients will learn more environmental awareness when they see a medical office being frugal with paper.
5. Free Up Space
Old paper medical records can take up a lot of space. Digitizing them can free up entire rooms that were once just for just files. Using air conditioning just to keep a room of files cool is not environmentally efficient.
Digital Records: Far Superior to Paper Charts and Patient Files
While the paperless society promised at the advent of computing has yet to materialize, we are well on our way. Converting paper medical charts to digital records will not only improve the ability of healthcare providers to offer quality service to patients, it also helps the environment.