Why are we still Struggling with Paper Documentation?
By Rob Drover, Vice President of Business Solutions, Marcum Technology
A recent New York Times article highlighted the immediate problem faced by government organizations confronting mountains of paperwork in their efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paperwork? We’re talking about paperwork? We thought this was 2020. Paperwork is dead, right?
Wrong. Despite the incredible advancements in technology, paper documentation is still prevalent in the workplace and is still the norm in industries like healthcare. The New York Times article told the story of Harris County Public Health Department in Houston becoming overwhelmed when one laboratory faxed (!) a large batch of test results, spraying hundreds of pages all over the floor.
“Picture the image of hundreds of faxes coming through, and the machine just shooting out paper,” said Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of the department. Yes, in some industries, the fax machine is alive and well.
Documents exist everywhere in our society. Medical records, tax forms, employment forms, healthcare forms, invoices and other legal contracts abound. While many of these documents have been digitized into PDF format or other forms, they are subsequently being transcribed from one digital format into another manually. From junior staff to CEO’s, people are struggling to convert information into a usable format. This can create a logjam in your processes and eat at your bottom line.
At Marcum Technology, we approach this issue on two fronts: long-term and short-term.
Long-Term Technology Solution
Electronic invoicing and automated bill payments have existed for years. At Marcum Technology, we help our clients with invoicing and automated bill payments by converting their vendor and customer files into electronic billing solutions that eliminate the need for paper or PDF documentation. These newly converted digital records can easily be integrated with modern accounting systems without manual intervention. This is a huge win for organizations that prioritize information process efficiency and accuracy.
Short-Term Technology Solution
Through the use of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation (“RPA”), there have been significant advances in a new field called “Document Understanding.” This is an AI-based process of using computer technology to extract information from digitized documents and “reading” or converting this information into a usable format. Once extracted and verified, other technology like RPA can be used to re-enter this data into downstream systems, with the goal of eliminating redundant work.
Much of Document Understanding is built on simple machine learning models. Various vendors such as UiPath and Ephesoft have “pre-trained” models capable of recognizing various document types; depending on the document type, these systems extract key fields without the user having to perform any manual extraction. These models can deal with thousands of different versions of a document by recognizing patterns and similarities. The machine learning model provides a “confidence level” that the extracted results are correct. If these results are too low or inconclusive, then human labor steps in to review or update the data.
Given the speed and relative accuracy they offer, organizations that use these types of technology service see significant reductions in data processing time and increased process efficiency and accuracy. The less time spent on repetitive, manual tasks like data entry, accounts payable invoicing, and processing inbound leads, the more time available for your organization to apply human ingenuity to other facets of your operation.
What Are the Next Steps?
The current pandemic has exposed critical weaknesses in overall preparedness, not just for direct response itself, but for a host of other issues related to remote work, access to systems, and even access to paperwork. With a rapid and seismic move to remote work environments, the use of cloud technologies and properly implemented digital document systems is critical.
Organizations and government entities that had the forethought to tackle these issues pre-COVID are much better equipped to react and respond to the urgency of managing the paper-to-digitized documentation mandate. Those that persisted with the old ways of managing processes are struggling to adapt to the new reality.
Regardless of your industry, Marcum Technology’s experienced consultants have the deep expertise to help you effectively and efficiently run your business. Today’s Document Understanding solutions are both cost-effective and relatively easy to implement. It is now possible to achieve auto-processing systems for inbound documents in days and full implementation in just a few months.