Perhaps you saw the recent New York Times article about airline pilots replacing bulky, printed in-cockpit flight manuals with digital versions on iPads. It makes great sense—the digital version weighs a fraction of the 40lb. paper version, receives updates in real-time, and is easily searchable. In the early- and mid-90s, when PCs were revolutionizing the way many businesses operated, the so-called “paperless office” held the promise of eliminating the reams and reams of paper that clogged file cabinets and inboxes in offices and required careful organization and storage to keep track of everything.
The reality was much different, however. Computer crashes, software glitches, and even the occasional server-room fire necessitated maintaining hard copies of just about everything as a backup. Perhaps you recall when people used to print copies of every email “just in case.” In addition, government regulations required certain industries to maintain paper archives or face consequences (all told, not a bad idea when dealing with peoples’ health or financial information).
However, technological advances in data security, including reliable, redundant backup systems, along with regulatory acceptance now make the paperless office (or, less-paper office) not only a reality, but in many cases, a competitive necessity.
At a recent NYeHealth summit, Maria Trusa, executive director of the Scarsdale Medical Group, stated, “In 2004 I had to convince 11 physician partners that EHR (electronic health records) was something we needed to do. The cost of running our practice was beginning to skyrocket. The staff was always looking for charts and as a result things were getting out of control. We had two full-time and two part-time employees dedicated to finding charts. And because those charts took up so much room, we were considering moving because we physically needed more space.”
Trusa’s group quickly needed to adopt EHRs or face the significant expense of moving to new offices, all because they were drowning in paperwork.
The good news is, you don’t have to wait until there’s a fiscal gun to your head to start reaping the benefits of the paperless office. Going digital will save you money, not only on physical storage space, but also on labor. No more spending hours digging through the file cabinets to track down one misplaced invoice. And even if you already conduct much of your business digitally, there’s almost always opportunities for increased efficiency, convenience, and cost savings by leveraging technology.