Eliminating the Burden of Paper and Manual Data Entry within Healthcare

Updated on November 26, 2022
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From patient registration forms to prescriptions, medical records, and doctor notes, many workflows within healthcare organizations still require paper documentation. Unfortunately, the burden of the paper-based processes and manual data entry leads to numerous tedious tasks for medical staff and a high risk of errors in medical records. Paperwork left on desks and fax machines also increases security concerns and the potential of PHI becoming compromised. 

Digitization within healthcare is necessary to improve care coordination, expedite healthcare payments, and streamline communication between patients, providers, and payers. Yet, while there is high consumer demand for digitization, a staggering 87% of providers still leverage paper and manual processes for collecting data about patients. If the industry is focused on interoperability and the digitization of healthcare, why are 87% of providers still leveraging paper? 

Fortunately, the answer is both easy to explain and easy to solve. Providers rely on paper because it just works. While FHIR-based standard messaging via APIs, Direct Secure Messaging, the Direct StandardTM and HL7 standards are all great solutions to the paperwork problem, they all rely on the sender and the receiver to be on the same standard. To make matters more complicated, the sender must know the standard the receiver is using to ingest their documents. For example, if the provider that sends over the patient’s records uses Direct Secure Messaging, but the provider receiving those records doesn’t have (or doesn’t use) their Direct address, then the standard of interoperability fails. 

Given the number of standards that have been created and the number of different ways providers have to create interoperability in healthcare, a secure messaging solution shouldn’t rely on the sender or the receiver. The solution should rely on the delivery network that exchanges those documents. 

Healthcare needs a trusted and secure exchange network that can agnostically connect any two endpoints. Further, that delivery network must do two things to promote interoperability and reduce the reliance on paper in healthcare: 

1. Allow the receiving provider to declare which standard they want to utilize for ingesting patient records. The provider should be able to tell the delivery network if they want patient records received as a Direct Secure Message or a FHIR-based message, for example.

2. The secure document delivery network then must be able to transform documentation into different standard message types. Through this functionality, something as basic as a fax can be transformed into a Direct Secure Message, a FHIR-based message, or be converted into an HL7 standardized CDA document. 

Today, 87% of providers should not be leveraging paper in healthcare. The tools and technology exist to eliminate the burden of paper in healthcare. The standards exist to allow for true interoperability in healthcare. Digital fax solutions exist to securely transmit documents via email as well as messaging platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Slack. 

Where healthcare organizations, payers, and providers need to focus their future efforts in terms of truly implementing interoperability is in the secure exchange network that can transform patient records from one standard to another and perform data extraction so the recipient gets what they need, when they need it, and in a format that their EHRs can readily ingest and integrate. 

A secure exchange network that provides data extraction can quickly transform unstructured documents such as PDFs and paper-based forms into structured, searchable data that is ready to be integrated into EHRs and applications. Extracted data can then be mapped to third-party systems, allowing tasks such as indexing patient records, scheduling, and referrals to be automated. As a result, clinicians can spend less time manually entering and searching for information and more time on care initiatives to improve patient health outcomes. 

Overall, digitization within healthcare is crucial to improve healthcare services. Thankfully, taking the first step is simple – eliminate paper-based processes once and for all with the help of a secure exchange network. Together with digital faxing and data extraction capabilities, a secure exchange network can effectively eliminate paper pains, reduce manual data entry, drive interoperability, increase efficiency, enhance security, and improve data quality.  


As Director of Product Management at etherFAX, Ben Manning will help guide the mission and vision of etherFAX by aligning the product roadmap to the long-term strategy. Ben has a proven track record of driving profitable growth for products and services across healthcare IT, pharmaceutical market research, and HR consulting firms. Previously, Ben was the Vice President of Product Management at both Vyne and Cerner.