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It’s a classic case of unstructured data: A hospital’s marketing team wanted to contact all the hospital’s patients who had asthma, to promote a new specialty. But most patients’ asthma status was noted only paper documents filled out during admission.

To build a new mailing list of asthmatic patients, the marketing staff would have to search by hand through each and every patient’s paper documents – weeks and weeks of labor, filled with human error and grumbling staffers (“Isn’t this the 21st century?!”). The project was abandoned.

And another opportunity was lost, simply because it was too hard to organize the data.

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 and sorting unstructured data requires expensive time-consuming, error-prone manual efforts.

Document digitization is one of the ways that unstructured data is transformed into searchable, sortable structured data.

Don’t mistake digitization 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 healthcare-marketing example above, picture a different outcome:  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 they stopped missing additional revenue opportunities.

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


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