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By: Thomas Carson

Sometimes You Just Have to Begin

Some years ago I worked at a company that processed patient visit documentation for doctors and medical clinics – “chart notes” in the vernacular of the time. At that time when you visited the doctor, she would complete an exam or visit, then pick up a phone or recording device and tell the story of your visit. That recording would then be delivered, often as a physical tape cassette, to a transcriptionist who typed the report from the audio recording and returned a physical paper document to the doctor. This was before the electronic medical records mandate from the government, but even so, it was beginning to occur to patients and healthcare providers alike that there might be some value in having these records be electronic.

Ours was one of the early companies that began automating the process by capturing the audio files over the Internet and serving them up to human transcriptionists over a web application. When the work was completed, it was immediately available to the doctors in their web portal, where it could be reviewed, electronically signed, auto distributed and printed. Pretty heady stuff!

Over the course of 5 years we grew to over 8,000 doctors on our system. While this was going on, there were many vendors developing sophisticated electronic medical records (EMRs) systems in response to the growing clamor for digital systems – with very low adoption rates. So how was it that we were successful? Because we provided not just a solution, but an easy way to get started on a complicated journey.

Our system did what it was supposed to do very well. And more importantly it solved some big problems, met the immediate needs of doctors and their patients, all while creating a platform for delivering future functions when our users were ready. We were seen by our doctor customers as a partner who “got it”.

There are interesting similarities between healthcare records systems then and EHSQ management systems now.
Now, as then, there are many companies relying on paper processes that are prone to errors and delays. Even worse, these systems hold their users back from jumping forward on clear productivity gains available from automation and technology adoption.

And there are many software vendors making competing claims of being the industry leaders. None of them are. Now, as then, there is no clear market leader and often the largest vendors are not the best fit for many customers.

But the most important similarity is the potential for these systems to grow as software platforms from which numerous future productivity gains may spring when users are ready. Effective safety management systems already touch many parts of a business simply by connecting all employees with the common goal of protecting each other. Now add that many safety-driven processes overlap into production reliability (regular inspections of plant and equipment) and HR (employee engagement) as two examples. It is a short step to expand this into quality assurance to support customer satisfaction and monitoring of third-party contractors to enhance organizational risk management.

Your safety software also could have the ability to support powerful emerging technologies such as remote worker support, worker-wearable devices and Internet of Things (IoT), which open the door to real-time monitoring of everything from workplace conditions such as noise, emissions and particulates, to machine operations.

As you stand on the edge and stare into the deep blue pool of technology choices, I am here to tell you that the water may not be as cold as you fear, and the experience may be more rewarding than you can imagine. We would love to help you – let’s get better together!

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