Gradually Changing the Capture Process

Our client is currently scanning lab test requests at their California office. These are prepared by having a PDF417 barcode label affixed to the document, which contains the main metadata value, called the Accession Number. Accessions (i.e., lab tests) are scanned, processed by the PaperVision Capture software to recognize the Accession Number, full-text processing is performed, and then the processed data is uploaded to ImageSilo for access from any office. They would like to begin processing their EOBs and other backup documents as well, so they are included on ImageSilo.

These supporting documents physically arrive at the office at a later date than the lab results, of course. The objective is that a single search of an Accession Number on ImageSilo brings back the lab results and any relevant backup documents, if available. It is important to note that some supporting documents, notably EOBs, contain information about multiple Accessions, and therefore must be duplicated so they appear in more than one Accession search. Ideally, this duplication process will not take additional space on ImageSilo.

Currently backup documents are sent for manual scanning and indexing before processing. Hard copies are then sent for manual hand-key entry into the billing-management system. This hand-key process consists of entering at least one unique reference then hand-keying individual line-item details.

Now, you can see the duplication and labour-intensive issues here, and, as a technologist, it’s easy to make the jump straight to sophisticated forms-recognition functions auto-populating the practice management system in the background, thereby eliminating errors, reducing labour requirements and making everyone’s life a lot easier. But it’s often not so clear cut. The user is already expending the labour, and even when you can show a clear ROI, they may not be ready to make the capital investment in forms recognition software, or they may not think their staff are ready to support the new process, or there may be concern about third-party vendor cooperation or even whether the third-party applications have the capability to back-end volume data imports, and the potential cost implications of those applications, et cetera, et cetera. So we go down a different road, the available road, and we begin to gently transition the process to better, at least, if not best.

Step 1: Immediate Changes to Capture All Supporting Documentation

The first step does not significantly reduce the amount of effort currently being expended, however remember that this wasn’t the primary objective. The main goal is to bring all supporting documents onto ImageSilo, so that lab results and supporting documents can be located with a single search.

In PaperVision Capture we create a new capture Job for scanning supporting documents. This new job has similar index fields as the primary lab results scanning job, with whatever additions are required, if any. The output data will load to the same project as current lab results so all documents are in the same place. (We considered different projects and global search methods, but it’s not really practical on this job, especially with the existing search integration from the web-based practice management application.) The scanning process will differ from the current barcode-breaking mechanism to include manual document breaking (we are investigating other methods, and whether barcodes could be made efficiently at this stage; I don’t think so, but possibly). We also add the document “duplication” process during indexing using PaperVision Capture Detail Sets functionality.

PaperVision Capture Detail Sets define a collection of indexes that allow multiple sets of field data to reference a single document. This will allow the user to create X number of “duplicate” database entries (where X is based on the number of accession references required per supporting document), and where the duplicates are only database entries pointing to the same image file(s) and not physical copies of the image. With the appropriate number of duplicate entries, the user can then begin manually indexing the various accession references that are present on the scanned document. The unique reference field (EOB reference or similar) automatically carries across all documents and is not indexed manually more than once (but will need to be indexed manually each time the detail set changes). Indexed documents are submitted and uploaded to ImageSilo automatically.

And our first objective – getting all the data online and accessible – is met.

Step 2: Automating the Indexing and Merge Process

At this point we will seek to change the process so that keying of data into the practice management system occurs before scanning. In this way, all the data entry has been completed and the indexing data is available for us to run database updates.

In short, this process would allow users to scan each supporting document, index only the unique reference number, and then use database update functionality native to PaperVision Capture to create the appropriate number of items in each detail set, and populate Accession references across all of those items with the data that has already been hand-keyed once.

So, we start getting more efficient on the data-entry at this point – instead of keying into the imaging system and then re-keying into the practice management application, we’re going to hand-key from hard-copy into the practice management and reverse the population of data into the imaging system (whereas normally we would seek for an imaging system to populate the accounting system. Remember, baby steps.).

We have a few questions on this part, of course, mainly around the best point of entry for accessing the hand-keyed data. Does the commit on the data entry process immediately generate a transmission into a reference database? Or are we waiting until the actual data merge takes place to pull data from the web-based application? We’re looking at methods now and our decision will, as ever, be based on the most efficient method for users.

But we also open up a couple of other areas of potential efficiency gains. Particularly we’d like to eliminate the hand-keying in the imaging system altogether, as well as improving the document break method. So at the data entry point, can we generate a unique 2D barcode reference that applies to the supporting document and kills two birds with one stone: the barcode becomes the automatic document break and populates our unique reference field, enabling automated details sets and bulk updates of accession references. That’s the question we’ll be asking ourselves in weeks to come.

One step at a time. But the sooner we can get to at least this step, the better for the client. At which point they will be a lot more open to re-visiting the ROI on a proper forms-recognition module that eliminates all hand-keying from the process entirely. Especially considering that they are seeing those volumes rise on a weekly basis already.

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Scanfree on target to deliver golden Financial Services solution

Scanfree have been shortlisted for an exciting opportunity in London’s financial services sector. Financial Service remains the largest industry in London, and over the years Scanfree have been fortunate enough to be involved in a few projects in the City. But our experience with financial services goes back much further.

While banking functions are much the same, parochial banking in the States, at least at that time, was different from banking here. In the UK we have primarily the very large banks, NatWest, HSBC, Barclays, and a few smaller banks and building societies. The US has very large banks of course, but the country is covered by smaller, regional banks. Even some “large” banks do not cover the entire country. And many banks and credit unions (similar to a building society) only have a one branch, or just a few.

One of my earliest installations in this industry was for Mountain States Bank out in Colorado. It’s now a part of the much larger UMB Bank, one of the largest banks in the nation, but at the time it was two sleepy branches nestled in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Not much happened around that part of the mountains and I get the feeling the locals liked it that way. The Glenwood Canyon and the surrounding areas are beautiful places to visit, by the way – and an outstanding place to drive. But I digress…

Mountain States had a small document management installation, what would have been called a document imaging system at the time. They had a single scan station at one branch, and were rightly proud of the T1 line they had run out into the mountains, which also linked both branches. A total of 3 bank managers had access to the system and were struggling to piece it all together. As with any company, they had become accustomed to the standard practice, and this idea of being paperless was really a light-years leap for them, despite the T1 line. I distinctly remember a conversation about whether opening image files could launch viruses. (Note: At the time this was actually unheard-of. Viruses needed to be executable in some manner. Can JPEG’s have embedded viruses now? That’s a story for some other blog or forum.)

I was with Mountain States Bank for just a few short hours, but from walking into a group of people very hesitant to change, I was able to walk out with some wholehearted believers. It was simple, really – we just showed them what they would be able to do. It was as easy as: scan it here at branch 1 and the manager at branch 2 can see it within seconds.

Things have changed dramatically since then, of course, and Mountain States and other banks and financial services institutions are using significantly more advanced capture and routing technologies. But the essence is still the same: Once companies learn what they can do with sophisticated capture and document management technology, there’s is always that eyebrow-raising moment…

oh, I see what that means. I can do my job better, and it’s become a lot easier.

New technology is so often seen as a threat or a challenge, but with every document management installation we’ve been involved in, there’s always that moment of realization.

People generally want to do their best. Give them the tools and see what they can become.

By removing the tedious, menial tasks, the people at Mountain States were given the freedom to concentrate on serving their customers. Whether it’s removing “filing” from the equation, making it easier to get to the data you need when you need it, or building full forms recognition and processing engines to drive data integration.

And that’s just one reason I’ve stayed in this industry so long: when you’re working with an end-user, and you get that moment of realization. It’s a genuine pleasure to help other people work smarter.

Which brings me back to the shortlist opportunity. Shortlisting in and of itself means very little, of course, but I am confident our solutions can tick all the boxes. And no one will work as hard as Scanfree to ensure a successful project launch. We just need to make it an easy choice, and before autumn has ended we’ll witness one or two more of those moments of realization. I’m looking forward to doing it all again.

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PaperVision Capture Code: Find Duplicates in Batch

Scanfree develops PaperVision Capture Code and Custom Functions for End-users and Service Providers.

A few Scanfree clients run very large batches through their PaperVision Capture stations. In some cases they’re running PaperVision Capture Automated Import Queues (AutoImport1.xml and AutoImport2.xml) that get created nightly. Others run large manual imports via the PaperVision Capture Operator Console. Whether automatic or manual, a scanning bureau will often find they have duplicates in a batch. Either duplicated images or, at the document level, duplicate metadata (index) field values.

PaperVision Capture maintains the old “Merge Like Documents” from PaperFlow 7.x days, This handy function checks index values and merges documents where all values imatch. But what does a scanning bureau manager do when not all index fields are identical, but certain values need to be checked for duplicates? Browsing the batch in the Operator Console is tedious. It’s not always easy to track down those dupes.

Scanfree has developed a solution. It is available now for any PaperVision Capture user. Service bureaus, in particular, will benefit from this (we use it in our scanning bureau), but so can end-users running PaperVision Capture scan stations.

The process is simple. The PaperVision Capture admin creates a job as normal in the Capture Administration Console. In the appropriate Operator workstep, insert a Custom Code command and import Scanfree’s PaperVision Capture Duplicates Report code. Then it’s just a matter of changing a few settings.

A setting within the code will tell the function which fields should be checked for duplicate values. It looks like this:

private string[] PVC_FIELDS_TO_SEARCH_FOR_DUPLICATES = {“Field1”, “Field2”, “Field3″}

Just change the quoted values to the exact field names of the PaperVision Capture Job. Don’t need to check three fields? Just add the one (or two) you’re after. A second setting in the code will define an output location for the report written by the custom code:

private const string REPORT_ROOT_FOLDER = @”C:\Reports\”

In this example we use a folder named Reports on the local C drive, but it could just as well be any accessible network location.

And that’s really all there is to it. The scan operator logs in to the PaperVision Operator Console and processes their batch as they normally would. When they’re ready they select the Execute Custom Code command within the Operator Console. A message will pop up to say the report has been written (or a message to say no duplicates exist). Open the report (which is time-stamp named) and the following report appears:

duplicatevalue1,3
duplicatevalue2,7
duplicatevalue3,4
etc…

OR

dupeval1a,dupeval1b,3
dupeval2a,dupeval2b,7
dupeval3a,dupeval3b,4

These examples show reports with one or two index values being tested, respectively. The final numeric value displays the number of duplicates found for each row item.

To learn more about PaperVision Capture visit our Products section. To learn about Scanfree’s Duplicates Reports go to our Development pages. (INSERT LINKS IN THIS SECTION TO CORRECT PAGES).

And incidentally, you can now run multiple instances of this report wll within the same batch, within the same workstep. For example, first run a duplicates test on Field1/Field2 combined, and then separately run a duplicates test on Field 3. In fact, you can now run as many pieces of custom code as you like all within a single operator workstep. We’ll write more about this one soon, but you can get a tech overview today by visiting the project page for the PaperVision Capture Functions Buttons (INSERT LINK HERE FOR THIS PROJECT).

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Private Education

Scanfree has been expanding its projects in private education. And by that I do not mean that my extracurriculars with my kids have expanded, although that is also true. In fact I write this blog post outside a half-term gymnastics class, wherein my 5 year old daughter tumbles and bounces. This is the most entertaining way to work, by far.

The American School in London contacted Scanfree in the summer of 2013 – a previous PaperVision installation had suffered some neglect and they were keen to breathe some new life into it. We brought them up to speed on the latest version, reviewed and reloaded existing data with new security parameters, re-established direct scanning for the Counselors and basically got them back to basics. ASL also had an existing set of document scans and other data types from a secondary, older document management system, which we were able to convert using a bit of data manipulation and a PaperVision Directory Manager. Shortly thereafter Scanfree completed a backfile scanning conversion of various record types for two different departments, one of them a new addition. The success of that scanning conversion and the improved document management and scanning functionality has seen the PaperVision user community grow.

Earlier this Spring Scanfree were brought in to perform a server upgrade and transfer – time to move into ASL’s new virtual server environment. Scanfree were able to perform most of the PaperVision transfer remotely, and went on-site for launch day to make sure no users had been affected. And as planned, other than asking counselors not to add anything new for 5 minutes (while internal DNS updated) no one noticed any difference – PaperVision architecture once again proving how well designed it is for these types of transfers – the software just doesn’t fall over if you get it right. I guess that’s one reason ImageSilo sees the high percentage of uptime that it does.

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Data Protection Scanning

We recently completed a large-ish backfile scanning conversion for another client in the education industry. These scanning conversions come in all shapes and sizes, and this one relatively mild, really – but they all come with their own challenges. Luckily, with a combination of a simple PaperFlow scanning process and some further processing in PaperVision Capture, and minimal database manipulation, we were able to process tens-of-thousands of client registration and Data Protection forms, as well as franchisee contracts and leases, in a few short weeks.

Interestingly, with Digitech Systems now releasing the long-awaited PaperVision EForms, the new electronic forms engine built right into PaperVision Enterprise and ImageSilo, the timing could not have been better. These Data Protection Consent Forms are perfect candidates for conversion to a paperless process – no wet signature required, and the data is consistent, if not for the fact that franchisees have developed variations over the years.

Now we’re looking at building that form online as an html electronic form, which will require a sign-on from a valid franchisee and load dir3ectly into the archive. Next step will be to integrate the form into a SharePoint portal with submissions feeding a PaperVision WorkFlow that updates internal databases to the presence of the DPCF.

Contract and Leases may well be on the table, too – Digitech’s supporting Digital Signatures now, and combine PaperVision EForms, WorkFlow and Digital Signatures, and this paper-intensive franchisor may soon be on the road to paperless processing for most franchisee coomunications.

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