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Among the major service industries in the U.S., which include banking and finance, law, customer service, management and healthcare, most have replaced paper-based systems in favor of technologies that enable the creation, storage and distribution of information digitally. More than any sector, service industries were among the first to benefit from increased productivity of the paperless office in terms of lower labor costs, decreased human error and reduced expenditures on storage real estate, paper, printing, copying and related office supplies.
Hosted (cloud-based) approaches to document imaging typically require less training and expense than their enterprise-wide variants while providing consolidated and consistent electronic information and images that can port seamlessly to the enterprise platform as needed.
The top ten economic reasons to adopt hosted document imaging on the road to the paperless office:
1. Paper-based systems are labor intensive. A series of studies on workplace efficiency posted an average labor cost of paper-based systems in what has become commonly known as the “rule of 20s.” In general, enterprises spend $20 in labor to file a paper document, $120 in labor to find a misfiled document and $220 in labor to reproduce a lost document.
2. Paper costs money. It’s not a small point, and the costs associated with using paper add up significantly. Legacy paper-based systems also require printers, copiers and service contracts for those machines, toner, pens, clipboards, folders, labels, boxes and filing systems. There are also facility costs of housing and storing paper documents both on and off site. In addition, document imaging contributes to environmental green initiatives by greatly reducing the consumption of physical resources.
3. Healthcare organizations find that faster document retrieval translates to better care. Not only are document imaging applications easier to manage and operate, file retrieval is instantaneous and eliminates the time associated with pulling and faxing records. As a result, patient financial services has faster access to billing records, human resources has faster access to employee files, and caregivers have faster access to patient health records so that there is no longer a delay in administering care.
4. Hosted document imaging costs less than enterprise software systems. The savings of hosted solutions goes well beyond sticker price, which can be less than half the cost of enterprise applications. By their very nature, hosted solutions offload all hardware and IT requirements to a third party, who then assumes all responsibilities for the maintenance and smooth running of the system. What this translates to in terms of real money is a sharp reduction of IT labor costs and a virtual elimination of new hardware investment, particularly if system users already have PCs, Web browsers and access to the Internet.
5. Hosted document imaging applications are easier to use. This reason more than anything else explains the successful rise of hosted solutions over their more rigid and unforgiving enterprise platform counterparts. A common complaint of bigger, all-encompassing systems is that they can be cryptic, difficult to learn and even harder to use. Often when a system is too challenging, employees simply will not use it. Hosted document imaging solutions fill a market need for a faster, friendlier and more flexible user experience, which presents further cost savings in terms of less training hours required and fewer IT resources spent fixing user errors.
“The process of transitioning to a paperless office is as much a needed exercise in streamlining common workflow and business automation methods as it is applying a new technology to an old problem”
6. Hosted document imaging applications are faster to implement. Enterprise-wide business automation software can take years to plan and implement, and years more to work the bugs out of the system. By contrast, hosted solutions are in a sense already live and waiting to be accessed by means of a Web browser, which significantly reduces implementation time and any accompanying disruption of daily workflow.
7. Hosted document imaging applications support data integration. What this interface ability and flexibility means is that there is no risk or penalty in terms of lost data when using a hosted document imaging application in lieu of, or as a bridge solution to, the implementation of enterprise-wide platforms. Individual departments can begin realizing the substantial savings and increased productivity of the paperless office irrespective of long-term enterprise software strategies, and provide cleansed and consolidated data in support of these platforms as needed.
8. Hosted document imaging solutions can be enterprise-wide. Some of the better hosted solution providers have already taken into consideration and designed their applications to support every department in the enterprise. This inter-departmental support means that some of the leading hosted document imaging solutions can outperform enterprise platforms at the one thing they do best: automate and integrate business automation processes across the enterprise.
9. A good provider brings solid information management expertise. One of the largest sources of value that often goes overlooked is the vast amount of experience that a document imaging vendor can bring to the table. The process of transitioning to a paperless office is as much a needed exercise in streamlining common workflow and business automation methods as it is applying a new technology to an old problem.
10. Often unexpected benefits can be recovered in the process. At a Michigan hospital, during an early assessment of the hospital’s readiness to transition to a document imaging solution, the CareTech Solutions team of HIM experts unearthed a multimillion-dollar backlog in unbilled accounts that couldn’t be coded or billed because of workflow bottlenecks inherent to paper-based systems. The one-time discovery only sweetened the estimated mid-six-figure savings CareTech’siDoc hosted document imaging solution was slated to deliver, which easily paid for the implementation.
These top ten economic reasons for using hosted or cloud-based document imaging are only the most observable and measurable benefits that can be realized on the road to modernizing the workplace. They shouldn’t overshadow the less tangible gains of adopting an enabling technology, such as its positive impact on employee morale and the sheer excitement of what can be accomplished when creativity and enthusiasm are supported by a technology that allows for such speed, flexibility and accuracy.