Written by: John Lynn
Today at MGMA, Fujitsu together with Osmosyz announced a new scanner that supports the relatively new CDA “Unstructured Document” HL7 standard at MGMA 2011. I must admit that the press release is a little intense. However, I find what they’re doing with a hardware product to support HIE is quite interesting.
I don’t want the title of this post to be misleading. While certainly HIE has generally become synonymous with some large health information exchange entity, in this case I’m describing a hardware device (a smart scanner if you will) that acts as a small health information exchange. Basically, it’s more along the lines of Direct Project as opposed to NHIN. Although, I imagine that it could send the documents to some larger health information exchange if someone wanted to do so.
The larger application I see of this technology is as a replacement for the fax machine. In some ways, it’s like a second generation fax machine. The major differentiation I see between a document sent using the CDA “Unstructured Document” HL7 standard and a fax is all the meta data that comes with the CDA document.
The fax or scanning workflow for most EHR software consists of receiving faxed documents or scanning documents into what amounts to basically a bucket of all the scanned documents. Then, it’s up to the user to go in and sort through all the various faxes that have been received or documents that have been scanned. At this point, the user can assign the document to a patient in the EHR. You can imagine the challenges that this can pose. I wonder how many documents scanned or faxed into an EHR have been assigned to the wrong patient accidentally.
That’s what makes this new Fujitsu scanner quite interesting. If it’s receiving the document from an outside source, it will come with the meta information for the document as part of the CDA standard. That can then be leveraged to more quickly assign that document to the patient. Not to mention, then all of that CDA information is available for other uses within the EHR.
For inside documents that are scanned in through the Fujitsu device you can actually assign the document to a patient on the scanner itself. That’s right, you can identify which patient a scanned document belongs to while you’re holding the document in your hand. A much better way to ensure that the document you scanned gets attached to the right patient in your EHR.
I’m just touching on a few of the features of what’s possible with this new Smart Scanner from Fujitsu and smart documents. You can do other things on the scanner like dividing document scans between multiple patients.
Meaningful Use Monday Angle
Of course, as most of you know, on Monday we usually do our regular Meaningful Use Monday series. Turns out that the CDA Clinical Document standard that I discuss above is being adopted by ONC as part of meaningful use. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out over time, but don’t be surprised if EHR software has to support this standard in the future.
What I find more intriguing is that the above scanner could be used by someone who doesn’t have an EHR, but wants to exchange patient information. I still think that the long term solution to interoperability of patient information has got to come from connections with EHR software. However, this does illustrate that technology solutions can and will be created to exchange health information. In fact, some combination of these solutions could be a way to meet some of the meaningful use requirements around exchange of health information. You still can’t get the EHR stimulus money without an EHR, but technologies like this could help you achieve meaningful use.
I’ll keep an eye on how this technology progresses. I wonder how many EHR vendors will integrate with this type of technology. Whether we like it or not, documents are going to be a major part of healthcare for the foreseeable future. We’ll see if smart documents and smart scanners are an intermediate step to the health information exchange nirvana (whatever that might be).