Now that the panic has subsided from the Brooklyn CitiStorage document warehouse fire (even though it shouldn’t) everyone is back in the out of sight, out of mind thinking as it relates to records management. Businesses need to consider what steps to take to create efficiency with their unique records process, and prevent a crisis like this from happening again. Documents in storage should be there only for retention purposes. Certain documents that will have an adverse effect on your business if destroyed should be in an electronic format and backed up.
There will always be documents that should be stored rather than scanned. It could be ten year old accounting documents, inactive medical records, closed legal files, terminated employee files… the list goes on and on. If these documents should ever become inaccessible or destroyed unintentionally, the business should be able to function properly without them. No business, other than one with thousands of dollars to spend, would even consider taking boxes of records that no one looks at out of a storage facility and convert them into electronic records that no one will look at.
But what does make sense is to convert records that are frequently retrieved and actively used in the office, such as active medical records, employee files, pending legal files, current accounting documents, active customer files, all documents that the business relies on to function. Electronic files are more secure, have audit trails, can limit accessibility, have easy to manage destruction dates, can be viewed by multiple people at different locations, have multiple backups, and are easier to manage than paper files.
Below are abstracts from a more detailed, day forward, application specific scanning service, with detailed posts to follow:
Everyone has had customers that do not want to pay for products or services that have been delivered to them, but with dozens or hundreds of deliveries per day, it can be a daunting task to track down signed delivery tickets to prove the delivery or service was completed. Instead of looking through thousands of delivery tickets, you can simply search for a specific delivery ticket by customer name, date, or other specific search criteria. Your company can even have the images integrated into your accounting software. Once the documents are electronic, you can instantly see who signed for the delivery or service and email it to their AP department, decreasing your receivables significantly.
Unless your company has a fully automated accounts payable processing system (which it most certainly could), the accounting department most likely has the vendor payables and customer receivables in file cabinets organized alphabetically by month or year, depending on volume. Excluding very small accounting departments and businesses, most of these files are going to be accessed by multiple people and possibly from multiple locations. Being able to retrieve frequently accessed documents saves time searching for documents, increases efficiency, and eliminates issues related to lost or mis-filed invoices. Images can be hosted on a cloud based document management system, stored on internal servers, or integrated into the existing accounting software.
- Human Resource Documents and Employee Files:
Human Resource departments are far more complicated than many people in business understand. They can be responsible for payroll, recruitment, benefits, employee relations, employee development, risk management, and many other specialized departments. With all this information being managed by HR, there is a lot of paper that can pile up quickly. Limiting the access to these documents by keeping them in file cabinets can cause inefficiencies that often go overlooked. Converting paper HR documents to easily accessible electronic images, allows remote and concurrent access, all within seconds, and with increased security and audit trails.
With the transition to Electronic Medical Records in full swing, many practices are put in the situation where they have to make a decision on what to do with their paper medical records. They have a few options: they could do nothing, and use the EMR for billing and scheduling only, and continue to use the paper chart for patient notes, they could use both the EMR for day forward progress notes and the paper chart for the historical data, or they can scan the paper chart information into the EMR and centralize their patient care in one location.
Doing nothing does not make the most sense; you implemented the EMR for a reason. Using both can be a viable option for a while, but mistakes can be easily made when working from two forms of media. Medications, allergies, or immunizations can be in the EMR and not the paper record or vice versa, and if another practice or the patient calls looking for that information, someone at the practice might not think to check both the EMR and paper chart.
Scanning paper records into an EMR allows a smooth transition to comprehensive patient chart management. The images from the paper chart are easily viewed in the EMR, and everything day forward is input directly through the EMR interface. New patients are completely paperless. This solution is most appropriate for active patients with paper records that are frequently accessed.