There are many benefits associated with the digitization of paper medical records. Whether or not your organization is using or considering a term purchase of an EMR (Electronic Medical Record) System, DMS (Document Management System) or just looking to clear up some valuable space currently being over-run with boxes of old documents, the digitization of your paper records is a critical step in realizing new financial and operational benefits.

The introduction of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has made it far more critical to identify more viable solutions to address paper medical records and security issues. Managing paper medical records required a certain standardized set of practices in place for protecting medical privacy, and when and how this information could be shared. As a result there were key security concerns associated with paper medical records that needed to be addressed.

1. Paper records are often hard to track and locate. There is a greater chance that a document in the patients chart can be misplaced or even worst end up in a different patients chart.

2. Typically paper medical records are stored on shelves or an off-site storage facility. These type of environments are vulnerable to a number of security and preservation issues. This especially applies to areas of the country that are affected by tornados, hurricanes and severe flooding.

3. Faxing and copying paper medical records can potentially end up in a trash can or accidentally be transmitted to the wrong recipient or location. This creates a further security concern and the prospects become greater for identity theft.

4. There were many other security issues which included misfiled or misplaced medical records.

There are many other benefits of digitization. Medical offices can greatly improve on regulatory compliance, reduce labor costs, increase productivity around shared documents across all aspects of the organization (patient records, human resources, accounting etc. In addition reduce costs of storage and the retrieval of documents. Reduce cost of paper, paper clips, staples, folders, labels, printing, mailing, faxing and special delivery costs.

Currently if you only have paper files chances are that there is actually no disaster recovery capability in place. A catastrophic event could virtually cripple the practice. Most physicians operate their practices as cost centers and not profit centers. Office space is becoming more important as physicians struggle with overhead, and one way to shrink costs is by removing filing cabinets and shelves which allows for maximizing space for more patient volume.

I am often reminded of a story that was shared with me by a practice administrator for a large group of physicians who was trying to locate a patient chart. She announced to her staff that that the first person that could locate the chart was being treated to lunch that day “ Is a medical office the right place to be conducting a Treasure Hunt”.


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