Escape from paper mountain

How many times a day do you think you touch paper? If your guess is around 100 you might be right.  It’s almost overwhelming to think of all the items we have transformed this magical material into: books, receipts, tissue paper, cereal boxes, labels… This list goes on and on. According to Dan Shapely of The Daily Green, “The average American consumes more than 700 pounds of paper a year…”  That is why one of the ASU Health Center’s latest initiatives is so worthwhile and exciting.

Led by Allan Markus and Azure Allen, the transformation of the health center into a paperless operation was no easy feat.  But given all the other worthwhile uses we have for paper, making the pragmatic decision to digitalize all record keeping and information transfers was a great call. The center sees around 30,000 students a year, 34,000 total patients if you count staff and faculty, and each of those visits typically generates around 2-4 pieces of paper, but even more if it’s a first time visit and a whole new chart has to be created.  But with their new digital system, Markus, the Director of the center, estimates that around 68,000 sheets of paper are saved each year. “It was a challenge that needed to be tackled,” said Markus when asked what spurred the switch.

Speaking with Azure Allen, Office Supervisor, I learned that the hardest part about the transition was “learning how to go about properly organizing or storing new records for easy retrieval.”  Since the charts are no longer physical objects it’s not as simple.  But they tackled this organizational shift through redefining the structure of their record keeping. The University Technology Office was there to help and also held educational sessions with both record keepers and clinicians. When reflecting on the department’s operational budget savings since the transition, the sustainability paradigm rings true when once again, what is good for people and the planet also happens to be good for the budget.

By Jehnifer Niklas

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