Transitioning paper documents to automated paperless solutions systems
through document imaging expedites business process management, according to
Esther Apter, chief executive officer of MedForce Technologies Inc.
Apter advises companies that still use paper processes to automate their
systems because paper lengthens a business’ workflow.
“Paper gets lost, stuck on someone’s desk and slows down your
processes,” Apter told O&P Business News. “Sometimes
when companies come to us, they are so far behind the technology that if they
are not utilizing document imaging or scanning their documents, then we advise
that they invest in that. It is an absolute must.”
According to Apter, when converting from a manual process management
system to an electronic process management system, the first step is to map out
your current processes. As you map out your business processes, identify
duplication or unnecessary steps.
“Start by automating your existing processes and as you automate
your documents, you will be able to troubleshoot where your problems are and
where the bottlenecks in your processes are located,” she explained.
“We find that as employees in top level management positions begin to take
a closer look at their systems, they say ‘Wait a minute, we should not be
doing that. Why are we taking these extra steps?’”
Michael Turner, chief operating officer at Savana Inc., a company
specializing in automating business process, workflow and document management,
recommended a complete analysis of your current paper world. This would include
investigating what paper forms exist in your office and where they get filed,
stored or ultimately destroyed. Turner recommended understanding and
questioning each point of the process. Who needs to see the documents? Why do
they need to see it? What actions are taken at each step in the process?
“You need to understand all of the elements of your existing
workflow,” Turner explained. “You need to step back and determine
whether a simple automation or an entire reengineering of the workflow is the
appropriate course of action. The last thing you want to do is automate an
inefficient or ineffective process.”
Business owners should determine whether their existing sources of
information are going to remain the same.
“If I have referrals, do those referrals come in on pieces of
paper?” Turner asked. “If they do, you should have them scanned into
the system as early as possible. Do you want to cut out the physical piece of
paper and have referrals come in electronically? This can be done through a fax
server that directs the referral directly to the appropriate practitioner or
New skill sets
After the analysis, business owners will have a better understanding of
their current processes, as well as a clearer view of what their processes will
look like in the future. According to Turner, some of the steps will be
automated versions of old processes. Some steps may be changed or eliminated.
“There may be new skill sets that require certain levels of
training, there may be new jobs or different jobs for your employees and some
jobs may even be eliminated. But before you do any implementation, you need to
have a blueprint for what your new world is going to look like.”
In terms of implementing a business process management system that
includes document imaging, companies do have the ability to go back and scan in
and convert any paper that you have to electronic. From that point forward, you
will be armed with the technology to better manage your workflow and business
“Sometimes employees at these businesses get analysis
paralysis,” Apter admitted. “It becomes such a big project that they
never implement it because they are trying to do it perfectly the first time.
My personal recommendation is don’t overanalyze it and don’t overkill
Apter believes it is important for companies, especially small- to
mid-sized businesses to understand the distinction between business process
management and general workflow.
“People in this industry as well as the small- to mid-sized
business, often conffuse the two,” she explained. “Billing software
will have certain workflows. For example, I received an order for a product and
now I have to check inventory, go through the warehouse and then deliver it.
Those steps are part of a business process, but the entire process includes
Apter explained that there are a number of workflows from one order
process to the next that is part of the overall practice management system.
Workflow is a component of business process management.
“Business process management is global,” she said. “It
describes what needs to happen for every step and every scenario. When you have
good business management tools, you have a standardization of certain
scenarios. Those scenarios are usually repetitive and are part of what makes
that business tick, but they must be followed a certain way.”
Still, new technology and systems will not singlehandedly accelerate
your company’s processes. A change in the company mindset is required as
“Employees must accept that the way they operated in the past will
change,” Apter warned. “For some employees, this may be a tough
adjustment.” — by Anthony Calabro
Disclosure:Neither Esther Apter nor
Michael Turner have a direct financial interest in any companies mentioned in
As the article points out, business process management has become table
stakes in today’s business climate. Even more so in the context of the
future of health care reform. Despite the importance of process automation to
the future of health care providers, the business landscape is littered with
failed business process management implementations.
Certainly it is critical to understand the current state of processes
and spend time developing the skills of the team. But it is even more important
to build a system that reflects how the physicians and staff will actually
practice medicine. Often, process mapping and reengineering are done in
conference rooms by consultants and systems analysts with only limited input
from the users of the new system. The result is a process and new system that
requires workarounds and, in some cases, potentially increased costs versus
The single most important element for any technology implementation
— or for any major change for that matter — is to include those most
impacted by the technology (or change) in the process of creating the future.
Including those who work in the processes and who will use the technology is a
critical success factor for any business process management implementation.
— Ron Wince
President and chief executive
officer, Guidon Performance Solutions
Disclosure: Ron Wince has no direct
financial interest in any companies mentioned in this article.