With the current nursing shortage in the United States, timely issuance and renewal of nursing licenses is imperative -- and one state is switching from paper to online documentation, speeding up the process.
The Kansas State Board of Nursing is required to keep license information for various lengths of time, and in the case of original applications, for life, said Patty Brown, the board's education specialist and head of records management. "With the paper system, we microfilmed them and then sent them to archives. The way of retrieving old records was to go through reels of microfilm and find them," she said. "With renewal applications, we had to keep them for 10 years, and under the Open Records Act in Kansas, we are required to produce those documents -- they're considered public documents -- anytime there is a request."
One key selling point of the new system -- Perceptive Software's ImageNow -- was the ease with which it integrated with the existing KBON proprietary licensing software system, as well as any future software changes, said Adrian Guerrero, information technology manager.
"ImageNow evolves with our processes," he said. "One reason we chose [it] was the ability to tie it into any interface without having to hard-code anything.
Guerrero investigated several document management systems, but found that Perceptive Software's ImageNow was the most functional and cost-effective. The company uses an industry-standard format for saving images, which is important for any business organization today.
Kansas is home to approximately 40,000 nurses, and the State Board of Nursing probably processes that many applications and renewals almost yearly, Brown said, so a few years ago, the board reorganized the system. "We created individual file folders for each nurse, so as those applications or renewals came in, and the processing was done and their license was reissued, those were all individually filed in their appropriate file folders -- a very time-consuming process."
When Brown had to respond to a records request, she said she'd pull the information from the file folder, pull information from other files that may have been batched together in years past, and photocopy and return them to the files.
Three Clicks a Charm
From the user's perspective, instead of getting up and retrieving documents by going to a 15-by-24-foot room full of file cabinets and hunting down the paper documents, it's now a one- or two-click process using ImageNow from the user's computer to get the same information, said Licensing Supervisor Wally Ballou.
"It's no more, I think, than three clicks, and they can have that person's information taken up. We've also streamlined and converted all the microfilm into images, and linked those through the system too," Ballou said. "Now there's no more getting up, going to the file cabinet, pulling out the microfilm, putting it in the machine, scrolling through, going to that person's file, printing it, taking it back to your desk and working off it.
"Now all you do is open up a software system, click on the ImageNow button and it pulls up the image for you."
Ease and Protection
Getting users up to speed was simple, Brown said. "I can sit down with someone, show them how to access files with ImageNow, and in less than five minutes, they can do it on their own. You don't have to spend a lot of time figuring out the nuances of the program."
And as for the state document storage regulations, the new system provided a safe alternative to paper and microfilm storage.
"Should something have happened to the building, such as a fire or tornado, (paper and microfilm) documents could have been lost," said Guerrero. "With ImageNow, we safely and easily store documents on site and off site."
In addition to the licensing applications and renewals, the State Board of Nursing has two file rooms full of legal documents "We've got quite a bit of paper," Guerrero said. "We would like to take all of our old case documents and put them into the imaging system -- basically on a secured section of that imaging system -- because some of that information not everybody in the office has the right to have access to."
The software will allow the department to secure the legal documents in a special section. "And essentially when a case closes, they're going to take all that supporting documentation, and then enter all that information into the system and have it as one large file, instead of breaking it down, because some of their documentation would be hard for us to decide what to key [from]," Guerrero continued. "So we opted to just have an entire case file in there, but we haven't started that process yet."
That process has not yet begun, but Guerrero said they're hoping to start soon. "The infrastructure is actually there for them to start, I mean they could start it today," he said. "They're just working through some logistics with it and some of the staffing issues they have over there. They're short some people, so they're trying to get somebody hired and get them taught and everything else. Maybe at that point, they'll have the opportunity to look at that."