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The Changing Role of Paper in Healthcare


Historically, healthcare has always been a document-intensive industry. And despite the widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), it remains so today.

A single sheet of paper is critical to a high quality of patient care. That piece of paper might be a clinical note about some key patient symptoms, or an order for an important diagnostic test. Maybe it contains the details necessary to provide proper continuity of care on a hospital floor after a late-night shift change. It might be a discharge summary to hand off to a patient at release. Or perhaps that piece of paper holds key medical billing codes that will help facilitate timely and accurate insurance payments.

No matter what that piece of paper may contain, there’s no question that it plays a fundamental role in today’s healthcare delivery system. And to play that role, it travels from admissions to the patient’s bedside to the nurse’s station to the file room and back again—likely making multiple other stops along the way. Given paper’s inherent mobility, it is not always so easy for clinicians and administrators to track down that single sheet of paper—and the vital information on it—when they need it most.

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