President Obama has vowed the U.S. will digitize all medical records by 2014, and an economic stimulus package passed by Congress last year allocates $20 billion toward the process. So Hospitals, group medical practices and physicians who for the most part have shied away from transitioning to a full-fledged Electronic Medical Record (EMR), are now compelled to take action. While the stimulus dollars will help defray the cost of implementing the infrastructure to migrate to EMR, the question of how or whether or not to digitize all or a portion of the Medical Record archive needs careful consideration.
Digitizing the archive requires a fairly labor intensive process; preparing the charts by removing paper clips, staples, etc., scanning, assigning index values to the scanned images and importing the data to the EMR. The value of having patient historical information as part of the new EMR system is clear, but what if the charts are rarely if ever accessed? What if, as in the instance of specialty practices such as Cardiology, it's not known when or if a patient will ever need to be seen again? Retention requirements mandate that the chart be maintained for as long as 10 years from the last visit.
One solution that should be considered is storing the older, less frequently retrieved charts offsite, at a secure, climate controlled location, with a Certified Document Management partner like Shoreline Records Management. Our Medical Record Storage Services allow healthcare organizations the flexibility to store charts in an efficient, cost effective manner, yet have them digitized on demand. Once digitized, the electronic chart is transmitted securely and imported directly into the organizations EMR system. Requests are fulfilled 24 hours, 7 days a week, often in as little as two hours.
In the scenario of frequently retrieved charts such as Pediatrics, digitizing the entire archive is more likely. Our Medical Record scanning service center is equipped with several of the latest high speed document scanners capable of capturing images at a rate of over 120 pages per minute. Projects that would take months or even years if done in house with current staff can be done quickly and affordably, allowing the organization to access historical Patient information within the new EMR system.