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Sometimes It’s the Little Things – Scanner Maintenance

There are a lot of features and functions in healthcare IT that don’t get talked about very much. The reason they don’t get talked about is because they aren’t “sexy.” While many of the healthcare IT tasks that need to be done aren’t “sexy” to talk about, they’re extremely important if you want your end users to be happy.

Check out this post on Scary Health Care IT Upgrades We Don’t Talk About to see some of the less exciting, but incredibly important IT tasks that have to be done in healthcare. Much like it’s not very exciting to talk about SAN Upgrades or core switch firmware upgrades, you very rarely see someone talk about scanner maintenance. However, it can make your user’s IT experience miserable if you don’t handle it properly.
DR-C125
The reason most IT people forget about scanner maintenance is that they rarely have to scan much in their jobs. As an IT professional, you and your colleagues exchange information electronically and so while you might scan something on occasion, you aren’t scanning paper daily. With such a low scanning load, you usually don’t have a high volume scanner on your desk that needs to be maintained. Plus, even if you did, you wouldn’t scan enough to need to do maintenance. The opposite is true for many in healthcare who find themselves scanning paper into the EHR every day.

I admit that I know this to be the case, because I was the naive IT support person who didn’t realize that regular scanner maintenance was important. In fact, I didn’t discover this until my HIM staff started complaining about the scanner not working very well. That’s the other key to this problem. Unlike other maintenance, a poorly maintained scanner still works but just not very well. The scanner’s ability to feed in the paper, not jam, etc slowly deteriorates over time. So, the end user doesn’t usually ask for help until after they’ve dealt with the “finicky” scanner for months.

In most cases, it’s not the scanners fault at all. Instead, the problem is poor scanner maintenance. The great part is that this is an easy problem to solve. I won’t dig into the detail of how to maintain your scanner. Spend 5-10 minutes in your scanner’s book (find it online if you through it out) and it will tell you what you need to do. Also, not all scanners can be cleaned, but if you have a scanner like the Canon DR-C125 or equivalent, then a little maintenance keeps them running better.

The maintenance on a scanner is usually quite simple. You just clean out the inside and change out the rollers after so many scans (varies depending on the scanner). In many ways it’s like a car. You know what happens when you don’t change the oil in your car. It’s bad news. The same is true when you don’t maintain your scanner.

You don’t want to hear from the HIM or nursing staff when you forgot to “change the oil” on their scanner. That’s not pretty and often requires a box of donuts. The nice part is that with regular scanner maintenance, these scanners will last a long time under a heavy load. Do you practice good scanner hygiene in your organization?

Sponsored by Canon U.S.A., Inc.  Canon’s extensive scanner product line enables businesses worldwide to capture, store and distribute information.

December 5, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

Transitioning to Health IT Jobs

I’ve made the transition to health IT relatively recently. In May that I started doing some contract work as tech writer for a health IT vendor, then looked around for health IT related gigs – if there was a business analyst or tech writer posted in the DC/Baltimore area on Craigslist or Monster, you can bet that my resume was in there somewhere. It took me a good two months of searching to land my current job (and after two months of email after email saying “sorry, your resume didn’t make the cut”, I got three job offers in the same week – true story.) This is what I’ve learned along the way:

1) Having health-care related credentials helps: It can be anything – a degree, college coursework, actual paying jobs or volunteer positions you’ve held. In my case, I had a B.S. in pharmacy with a minor in IT, and a masters in Communication, so it seemed as if a health IT tech writer gig would be perfect for me. I believe that adding the “My undergrad major was pharmacy” in my cover letters was the phrase that opened doors for me.

2) Volunteer: I have mixed feelings about this piece of advice. It’s a well known secret that employers want certifications in vendor-specific products in the candidates they shortlist, which makes it something of an impossibility for regular IT folks looking to transfer to health IT.

On the HIMSS blog, there was a really interesting discussion from some time ago on healthcare employers not getting enough trained health IT people. The comment section was really enlightening – a commenter said “I’d like to share a little known secret: many hospital employees, IT included, are hired as a result of volunteer activities at the very same hospital that he or she volunteered at.”

Someone else commented that “An open secret in the NPO world is that they get many person hours donated with the unstated goal of being hired but no person ever actually receives employment. Especially in towns with many colleges and universities, some NPOs glean many free person hours from students and depend on the myth that all NPOs hire this way.”

So in effect: you might get a paid health IT gig after volunteering at a hospital or similar setting, but such NPOs are also the most liable to take advantage of you by dangling the job carrot before you. Also volunteering when you’re a newbie to the workforce might make sense, but I’d really love to see how that might help a mid-career IT person with a few years of experience under her belt, and with mouths to feed at home. I’m not discounting it entirely, but I’d do my research (how many volunteers were actually hired, and so on).

3) Hone up on healthcare concepts skills: HIMSS has a great repository Health IT Body of Knowledge. Read some blogs, follow the #EMR #EHR twitter feeds, or check out the thought leaders on Quora. Figure out which aspect of health IT interests you – is it the mobile apps sector, or EMR product development?

4) Learn from the greats: I really lucked out that I got some great health IT mentors this year who worked with me into turning the raw ingredients of my healthcare knowledge into something semi-cooked. And this is true of any area where you’re a learner – the more you show your enthusiasm for something, the more people are willing to teach you what they know. If there’s someone in your office or friends circle who is a walking encyclopedia of anything health IT, talk to them, and ask for their advice. If you don’t know any such person, make online relationships by commenting on blogs or following conversations on twitter. Read what the greats read, engage them in conversations. Knowledge osmosis will take care of the rest.

November 14, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now writes about healthcare, science and technology as well as traditional news features.

EMR in the Age of Skype

The physician community has something of a split persona. Doctors are probably the only community still dedicated to using pagers to communicate with their offices. And yet, it’s no secret that the medical establishment is among the fastest growing segment among smartphone and tablet users. A widely quoted statistic from Manhattan Research stated that 81 percent of doctors would own a smartphone. Manhattan now states that the 81 percent rate has already been reached in 2011, while average America is at 40 percent adoption, according to Nielsen.

So, the medical establishment is clearly ahead of the curve in some ways.

But you just have to juxtapose pagers and smartphones against each other to understand the real advantages of the smartphone. If you have an iPhone and your doctor has one too, you’re going to probably take it to the next level, right? Yeah, FaceTime. (Surprisingly enough, that’s not what the statistics show. A full 78 percent of respondents said they didn’t want to chat or IM with their doctors, according to this recent article on Technology Review.)

For this kind of face to face interaction to work, it really depends on how good a rapport you have with your doctor, but if there’s a good doctor-patient relationship, you might just consider making the move. Let’s be clear, doctors are not taking to video-conferencing via Skype or Face-Time in droves (or rather, there are no published statistics from the bean-counting firms about the trend), but there are some anecdotal stories on blogs like Dr. Brian Goldman’s on CBC.ca. But it’s interesting to think ahead to how video consultations might change EMR.

The Pros:
- Direct connection with your doctor, in an instant: Great for the patient, furthers doctor-patient relationship but could be something of a double-edged sword.
- Show, don’t tell: For those times, when you don’t know whether a symptom needs an in-office visit, or when you’re not in town and some conference magic and ePrescribing can save the day.
- No more Lost in Translation: The paging process has that additional office staff layer in between, who convey your message to the doctor. It’s tempting to think that you can axe the middleman with Skype.

The Cons:
- Direct connection with your doctor, in an instant: How long before patients are calling at all hours of the night demanding FaceTime? Blackberries and iPhones might simply be another way to tether yourself to your business (Next time you see 24-7 IT support, know that there is a person dreading the Blackberry ping somewhere in the world)
- Too many interruptions spoil the day: Pagers let the doc put off calling till she’s done with the task at hand, not when the patient demands.
- Privacy issues: From an EMR perspective, this is the big kahuna. There are several nuances to consider. The doctor-patient line has to be securely done, with HIPAA in mind. For CYA purposes, video-cons will probably need to be recorded.

Microsoft’s main intent behind its purchase of Skype might be its conferencing features for business, but wouldn’t it be awesome if Skype also showed up in HealthVault (which only has image saving capabilities so far, according to this Q&A on MSDN forums)? Or if any advice dispensed via Skype could be saved into your doc’s EMR system and become part of your health profile. There are several possibilities out there when you throw video into the mix, and they seem quite interesting.

September 12, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now writes about healthcare, science and technology as well as traditional news features.

New ONC Health IT Website Design

I don’t know how many of you noticed, but ONC has done a nice redesign of the HealthIT.gov website. Here’s a screenshot for those that don’t want to click through to the site:

Besides the website being a pretty big visual upgrade to the site, I also like the way it’s been simplified and focuses on the two most important parts of the healthcare system: the providers and the patients.

I haven’t dug into all the resources really deeply yet, but at first glance it seems like they have some decent information for those who likely don’t have a deep understanding of healthcare IT and the government EHR incentive money.

Personally I’d have liked to see a little more emphasis on EHR selection as opposed to them skipping straight to the EHR implementation. Sure, many people consider EHR selection part of the EHR implementation, but I see EHR selection as so important that it’s worthy of highlighting separately.

I’ll leave an analysis of the section on Patients and Families to the ePatients out there. I’m sure they’ll be chiming in shortly.

I also love all the social media integration that’s happening on the site. My only problem with government use of social media is that they can’t use it properly most of the time. They’re so restricted on what they can and can’t say that you don’t get the full benefits of social media.

September 8, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

Great Analogy for Cutting Healthcare IT Investment


Cutting our investment in #technology innovation is like lightening an overloaded plane by removing the engine #HealthIT #Technology
@EMRAnswers
Linda Lia Stotsky

The real problem here is that when done right, healthcare IT and EMR can be a real benefit to a clinic. Done wrong and it can be a weight around the neck of the hospitals and doctors that are implementing it. Long term, I think the analogy is even more true. You can only glide so long without an engine to propel you.

April 22, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.