Automated Data Collection: Methods & Benefits

Posted by Brinna Hanson on December 22nd, 2020
Author
Brinna Hanson
Brinna is a marketing professional and recent graduate of the University of Minnesota. Brinna joined Smart Data Solutions in 2019 to assist the marketing department reach new heights with a focus on the HubSpot inbound process. From her time at Smart Data as well as at previous internships, Brinna has been able to gain knowledge in many different aspects of marketing as a whole.

Automated data collection is the automatic data capture of paper documents, turning them into digital files using special tools and software. A combination of AI programming and machine learning allows software to quickly read and translate paper files and images and turn them into easily accessible e-files.

Automatic data capture has been paramount in shifting away from manual data entry and into more sustainable digital processes. Automated data collection software has helped businesses streamline their document management, amongst other benefits.

How Do Businesses Benefit From Automated Data Collection?

Companies that shift to more automation with data capture systems will reap the benefits of several advantages that come with automated data collection. Improvements to their business processes include:

Faster Turnaround Times

Processing paper forms such as medical claims can take up significant amounts of time. One must wait for documents to be processed, proofread, scanned, mailed out to the proper parties, only to go through further steps on that end. Automation can shave down the time it takes to process paper claims from days to minutes.

Saving time on mundane, slow processes means freeing up time to spend on more training for employees, getting more work done, and applying more energy to data quality assurance and other critical tasks.

Fewer Manual Processes

Automated data collection will help businesses eliminate outdated manual processes. As technology continues to enhance and grow, paper forms and documents seem to be going away, almost completely. The manual processing of paper forms is old news.

Automation reduces the time it takes to process data manually and saves on space required to file and store paper documents. Thanks to automated data capture, those files are now all digital and can be kept securely for years and years while being easily accessible.

Reduction in Errors

Manual data entry brings a much higher risk of the inevitable human error. Despite diligent training and expertise, mistakes can still happen. During automated data processing, however, artificial intelligence and optical character recognition can help alleviate these errors.

Data collection software can quickly read through documents and compare them to other files and templates to ensure all data is complete, and things like names and date of birth match up on sensitive documents. OCR can even read handwritten forms and translate them to correct digital formats.

Increased Efficiency

Another advantage of automatic data collection systems is that it simplifies complex tasks into fewer steps, which increases efficiency in those tasks, as well as others. When the need for extra steps taking place during manual processes is removed, businesses can dedicate more time to other workflows, increasing productivity.

Cost Savings

Automation can rid your business of extensive costs related to extra labor, ongoing training, equipment maintenance, system updates, and document storage. It can also allow for funds to be redistributed to other departments, enhancing internal processes, updating computers and other machines, etc.

Businesses can see significant cost savings by choosing to hire an outside organization to handle their data capture rather than an in-house team. This is becoming incredibly more popular as businesses see the incredible advantages of paying a flat rate to get the same, if not better, data processing as they did doing it themselves.

Different Methods of Automated Data Collection.

Automated data collection is not a one-size-fits-all type of system. It comes in all different forms and methods that could change depending on a business’s needs. The level of character recognition and automation can change and meet different requirements. Here are some of the most common methods of ADC you will see used.

Optical Character Recognition

Optical character recognition is a proven technology that has been very well-established across many industries as the go-to automated data capture method. It’s our chosen method for data capture here at Smart Data Solutions. OCR is a technology that takes handwritten or typed documents, images, PDF files, or other scanned documents and reads them to convert them to editable, searchable digital documents.

OCR is different from simply scanning documents into the computer because it reads the characters in the document and matches it with specific templates and formats to ensure accurate data transfer, not just a copy and paste as a scanner would do. OCR is incredibly useful for industries dealing with sensitive data like patient information on medical claims. It creates higher accuracy and improves quality assurance.

Optical Mark Recognition

Optical mark recognition does not recognize characters but will scan for marks like filled in bubbles or checkmarks. This method is great for tests, questionnaires, surveys, symptoms checklists, family history—anything that requires making a mark on the form rather than writing in information.

Intelligent Character Recognition

Intelligent character recognition focuses much more heavily on handwritten documents. The accuracy can be a bit lower than other methods of character recognition but can save a lot of time processing handwritten forms. Using machine learning, the equipment and software can read different fonts, styles, even cursive hand-writing, which will vary in accuracy but ultimately help translate data much faster than manual data entry.

Automated Data Collection Software and Tools.

Tools used to automatically collect data include bar code scanners, position scanners, RFID readers, QR codes, and other data collection devices. These allow for quick and easy readability of forms and documents. Once data is input into the system, they can be quickly scanned and read by the computer within seconds by putting labels and bar codes on those documents. This limits manual data entry and pulls content much faster and more accurately.

Now, the software used by organizations utilizing automated data collection is often specific to those businesses. For example, the technology used by Smart Data Solutions has been specifically developed to suit the exact needs of our clientele but also incorporates enhanced AI and machine learning capabilities.

While many organizations may use an application that meets the basic needs of automated data collection, we believe that users should get all of that and more, especially if they want increased accuracy and precision in their automation practices. For more information on what we offer in our data capture services, please check out our OCR webpage, and from there, contact us to get started!

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