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Picture this: A hospital acquired new equipment that could tailor asthma medication to each patient’s needs. The marketing team wanted to contact all the hospital’s patients who had asthma. Hospital administration expected the new service to be quite profitable.

However, most hospital patients had been treated for other conditions, not for asthma. The hospital’s electronic records only tracked the treatments the patients received, not other conditions being handled outside the hospital. Many patients’ asthma was noted only on paper documents filled out during admission.

To build a list of asthmatic patients, the marketing team would have to search by hand through every patient’s paper file, to see if they had checked the “asthma” box. Given the number of hours needed to review each and every paper record, the cost to identify prospective patients was roughly the same as the cost of the hospital’s new equipment, deferring ROI far into the future.

This is just one example of how unstructured data (data found only on paper, or in various incompatible databases) locks up information that could otherwise contribute to the bottom line. Structured data – a spreadsheet, for instance – is searchable and sortable with electronic speed. Searching unstructured data requires time-consuming manual efforts.

Document imaging is one of the ways that unstructured data is transformed to searchable, sortable structured data.

Don’t mistake imaging for a .PDF, however. A .PDF is essentially a picture of a document, and it’s no more searchable than the original paper. By contrast, an imaged document can be read by software. Text and numbers can be extracted, sorted, searched, and linked to other data.

With the speed of automation, the imaged information is compiled into a database. It becomes actionable business intel. Every department can access the data, make better decisions, and operate more productively.

Returning to our case-study hospital: Marketing collaborated with IT to spearhead a pilot project, transitioning to imaged patient-admission documents. As they assembled the now-usable data, they realized that they had a treasure trove of marketing information. They stopped missing opportunities to offer additional services to patients who could benefit from them. And that new equipment became profitable much sooner than expected.

If your business has paper records, you have unstructured data. Transform it into structured data, via document imaging, and start monetizing the information.

 

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