Convert Medical Records to Digital for Secure, Fast Access

The shift to electronic medical records (EMR) is well under way. In the United States, healthcare providers have had to complete their transition from creating paper records to entirely digital systems or face financial penalties beginning in 2015. In the United Kingdom, a National Health Service directive requires all records to be digital by 2018.

The overarching goal, of course, is to efficiently improve patient care while potentially saving costs due to eliminating the time and money spent managing medical records on paper. Additional priorities include protecting the privacy of a patient’s medical history while also making the information portable and accessible.

From the initial check-in at a doctor’s office or admission to a hospital, through exam and test results, treatment reports and documentation about medications and follow-up care, the volume of paper created for each patient is staggering. Too often, the information is not available when a doctor or patient needs it. Electronic record-keeping can resolve these issues and more, especially when historical paper documents are scanned and seamlessly integrated with newer digital documents.

Document Scanning: First Steps

Healthcare providers may be handling less paper, but years and perhaps decades of older medical records remain in storage. At some point, information the paper and film contains can enable a doctor to diagnose illness or disease — if only the patient’s history could be quickly retrieved and delivered to the physician’s fingertips.

“When doctors consider a patient, they need to have the full picture of that patient, which may include the older physical records as well as the newer electronic records. They need to have a seamless and holistic view of all of the information available,” says Andrew Kish, Vice President, Global Market Leader of Document Management Services at Recall.

That’s why a document imaging service should be considered.

Paper records can be saved for time periods that comply with laws, regulations, policies and agreements. They then can be easily retrieved, scanned and delivered on demand. This accessibility frees up valuable healthcare resources — staff and floor space in medical centers and hospitals — while an expert information management partner properly handles the paperwork. Before making a decision, review the following options for consolidating and relocating paper documents to offsite, long-term storage managed by an experienced provider.

Recommended: Advanced Technology for Document Management

Recall has global health information management expertise and can help you integrate physical records with digital records.

We recommend that healthcare providers use advanced information management and governance technology to manage historical physical records (paper, film and other formats) together with new digital records. Then providers should consider whether:

  • Your organization should rely on employees to use the software to identify, organize and store all of the historical information in ways that make such records searchable and retrievable with new technology.
  • Or, instead of managing information in-house, hire a knowledgeable business partner like Recall to integrate all of your physical and digital record-keeping.

Another recommendation responds to a frequently asked question about whether a healthcare provider should convert all of its physical records to digital. Our answer: There’s rarely a business case for doing that. The percentage of physical records in long-term storage that have actually been recently touched is very low. The cost of scanning all of the documents can be quite high. An on-demand approach by a document conversion service is better because specific charts, X-rays and test results can be scanned and delivered electronically when needed.  

The amount of paper or film that is kept in long-term storage can be reduced over time as the original versions, along with their digital versions, are destroyed when they meet their required retention periods.

Compliance: How to Secure Private Information

Electronic medical records must have the same security and access controls as paper and other physical documents to protect the privacy of an individual’s information. Therefore, be sure to select a scanned document management approach that addresses compliance issues. Advanced record-keeping technology makes it easy to properly manage paper and digital documents with one set of policies and one retention and destruction schedule.

Under the new ERM requirements, medical records must be available to patients, so scanning can enable healthcare providers to efficiently locate and distribute information from historical documents within the time requirements.

The addition of digital records complicates health information governance, and not all scan documents services can manage records holistically to help you fulfill your record-keeping responsibilities. Advanced software, such as the Recall Command IG™ solution, links the historical records to the digital versions. This linkage ensures that both are securely saved for the time required by laws, regulations, policies or agreements. 

End Game: Reduce Medical Records on Paper

A document scanning solution that converts patient histories from paper and film to electronic medical records is the best approach to quickly putting the information in the hands of healthcare providers.

Scanning older physical records, in most cases, should be done on demand to reduce costs. At the same time, your legacy documents should be integrated into new digital medical records. Such integration keeps all of the private information secure and in compliance with record-keeping and privacy requirements, yet also immediately available for doctors and their patients.

Our advanced technology solutions and information management experts can help.

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