Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Optical Character Recognition is a term that describes a system by which printed or hand written symbols are converted into digital text via an optical scanning procedure of the original physical media.

OCR by definition is almost exclusively implemented with some form of Document Imaging system that enables the creation of a full-text searchable document storage database within an organization.

Applications within healthcare

OCR can be used in conjunction with a Document Imaging system in a healthcare setting to aid the organization in many ways.

  • Better quality of care - If a patients medical history is made full-text searchable it would allow medical professionals to better care for an individual by providing them with the most pertinent information relating to why that individual is currently seeking help in a much more timely manner than having to search through paper charts (which most physicians apparently don't do to a very deep level currently)

  • Improved efficiency - by aiding in the searching of records along with the ease of reproducing digital text, worker efficiency can be greatly improved

  • Decreased errors - Using OCR to check the data in data fields can help reduce errors if combined with a system for data checking by alerting technicians to inconsistent data, or erroneous entries and help correct potentially deadly mistakes from occurring early on in the heathcare process

  • Reducing costs - An OCR system can reduce costs by eliminating the need for a human transcriber either for existing documents or for current documentation needs

OCR and EHRs

One of the biggest problems that implementing Electronic Health Records currently present is that organizations have to make a choice about whether to keep past paper records and start a EHR with just new records or to convert old records into an EHR compatible format and continue with future records in the new EHR system.

By utilizing an OCR system the choice between leaving the legacy records in a paper format or converting them into stand alone digital text or an EMR system is much easier for an organization to make.

Related Terms

Document Imaging
Electronic Health Record
Hospital Information System - HIS