Records Management Blog | Practical Records Management

What Should Businesses Do With Their Existing Paper Records?

Posted by Matthew Petito on Wed, May 13, 2015 @ 03:23 PM

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:

 

  • Proof of Delivery:

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.

 

  • Accounting Documents:

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.

 

  • Medical Records:

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.

Tags: Document Management, Records Management, Document Scanning, Medical Record Scanning, Brooklyn Storage Fire, Paper Records

The Recent Brooklyn Document Storage Warehouse Fire, and Many Other Tragedies, Point Out Why Digitizing Paper Documents Should Be Considered.

Posted by Matthew Petito on Thu, Feb 12, 2015 @ 04:41 PM

The massive fire last week in Brooklyn’s CitiStorage Document Storage warehouse was not the first time a document storage facility has been destroyed. To name a few, 1997 South Brunswick, NJ, USA, 2006 London, England, 2006 Ottawa, Canada, 2011 Aprilia, Italy, and 2014 Buenos Aires, Argentina.

With 1.1 Million Cubic Feet of records potentially destroyed at CitiStorage, including that of legal firms, financial intuitions, medical practices and hospitals (Mount Sinai Health System, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, North Shore-LIJ Health System and NYU Langone Medical Center), accounting firms, and both small and large businesses, the main question is and has been, why have these documents not been converted to electronic images?

Aside from the why haven’t records been converted, businesses also have to contemplate what would the cost be to recreate destroyed documents? What would be involved? And what if those records cannot be recreated? What would happen if original blueprints, medical records, legal cases, or financial documents are destroyed with no way of reproducing them? “It’s 2015, why isn’t this information electronic?” many people have asked.

Once records are digitized, companies will no longer have to pay for records management services related to document storage. After the documents are scanned, no more costs will be incurred. The electronic images can be on a hard drive, an internal network, or cloud based storage all allowing constant and instant access.Brooklyn Storage fire

On Sunday, 2/1, many New Yorkers woke up to thousands of pages of private and protected information floating along the Williamsburg waterfront and spewing through the air. Not only are the records that hundreds of businesses and government agencies depend on destroyed, the private and protected information of their customers and employee’s was put on full display. Many of these have names, addresses, account numbers, social security numbers, which can be used to easily steal someone’s identity.

 “About the possibility that confidential patient information might have been disclosed on a large scale as the wind scattered unburned records, Brian Conway, of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said, “There’s no reason to believe that’s a possibility.” Yet in one indication of the city’s concern, the disaster recovery contractors, in their neon yellow jackets, sealed off the entrance to the rocky jetty with yellow caution tape early Sunday and began to scoop documents out of the water with nets and shovels.” – NY Times.

The electronic images of scanned documents are more often of a higher quality than the original and much more secure. The entire CitiStorage warehouse could be scanned and stored on a few hard drives, which are much easier to protect, keep organized, and secured than thousands of boxes.

Tags: Paperless Office, Document Management, Records Management, Document Scanning, Document Imaging, Medical Record Scanning

Records Management Vendor Selection Guidelines

Posted by Michael Thomas on Wed, Jun 09, 2010 @ 11:16 AM

 

The amount of Paper in the average office continues to grow by 20% to 30% each year, and Offsite Document Storage is often required for companies that have either outgrown their existing space, or have too many files to efficiently manage in their current configuration.  No matter what type of company you have it is increasingly important to adequately plan for the proper storage, retrieval and purging of documents.  Now is the best time to consider putting a good records management policy into effect, and for most small and mid-sized firms, a good records management policy should include the use of a qualified records management partner. But how do you know who to work with?

Choosing a partner for Offsite Document Storage should be based on several important factors including:

  • Experience with records management - Experience can make a world of difference when choosing a Partner. Working with the right company can help you avoid many of the common challenges and pitfalls experienced during a Record Storage Project.
  • Knowledge of business practices - The most effective Records Management companies will be able to understand not only the business of storing and retrieving information, but will also understand how you will use this information on an ongoing basis. This helps to make the relationship work more seamlessly. Keep in mind that the Partner you choose will be an extension of your resources - they're going to have all of your information!
  • Ability to provide prompt service - There seems to be a predisposition to slow, plodding service for many Record Storage Companies, and there really is no need for this. Next-Business Day Services should be the standard, and it's important to inquire about Scan-On-Demand services to ensure that you can access your files within hours if and when such a requirement arises.
  • Affordable pricing - One of the most common complaints about Record and Document Storage Partners from Clients is the feeling of being Nickel-and-Dimed for every little service. Take caution to look not only at the price but the measure of quantity. For example, some firms actually charge based on the Cubic Foot, not just on the price per Box. Also, be aware of any ancillary charges such as Fuel Surcharges or Account Administration Fees. Both of these are a sure sign of a company that doesn't really have your best interest in mind and is simply looking to pass along any cost that they can to you, the client.
  • Contract Flexibility - Long-Term Contracts can mean big trouble, so be careful when considering them. Record Storage Contracts often have Permanent Removal Charges or Hostage Fees built into them and can be very difficult to break. To make matters worse these contracts many times will also have Automatic-Renewal Clauses which make them difficult to ever escape. Be careful if you see these clauses - after all, shouldn't your Records Management Partner have to earn your business with quality service like everyone else?

What to Expect from your Records Management Partner

A records management partner should work with you to determine your records management needs and not be able to make a recommendation immediately. Beware of anyone who tells you that they understand what you need before you even explain your situation.  Every company is different and their needs vary.  There is no one plan that is right for every business.  A good records management partner will help find the solutions that will make sense for your company.  They will help find not only short-term solution for document storage but also a future plan to keep your company running smoothly for years to come.

Tags: Document Management, File Storage, Records Management

Records Management Failures Create Business Failures

Posted by Michael Thomas on Thu, Jun 03, 2010 @ 09:47 AM

Imagine, if you will, a company with a perfect business model. For the sake of being specific, let's imagine a company that makes those little paper umbrellas that are served in tropically-themed drinks. In addition to making the best possible companion for a poolside cocktail, this company has found the best leadership, has the most sound and profitable business plan, and has its coffers full of capital from willing and wealthy paper-umbrella-enthusiast investors. It has a large clientele already in place in the form of bars and resorts.

It owns two warehouses on both coasts, and has worked out wildly lucrative deals with their suppliers. They have a successful e-commerce platform, are scoring number one in web searches related to paper drink umbrellas, receiving well over a million hits per year. Their employees are satisfied and happy with their pay and their pension, and the company is about to go public and expand to the competitive and profitable world of the international paper-umbrella business. Investors could not be happier. Jim Cramer (the Mad Money guy) is yelling at you at the top of his lungs through the TV set, telling you to Buy, Buy, Buy! Nothing could possibly be going any better for this company.

Overflowing File CabinetsExcept for one little thing: the founder of the company was strangely averse to filing and hanging on to documents. As a quick fix, he found an empty room on the third floor of the office, painted the walls black, and simply dumped all of the company's records in the room. Whenever a record was created, it was unceremoniously dumped into this room, never to be seen again. When it became impossible to access the room from normal means, the founder had a system of tubes installed so that employees could dump their records into the room without needing to open the door.
So, as the company expanded, the room kept filling up. Every time an invoice was created to order products from a supplier, it was dumped in the room. Every time a contract was signed or drawn up, the copies were thrown down the tubes. Every time the customer made a purchase from the company's website, the receipt was sent down to the room, never again to see the light of day.

Still, this minor bit of oversight couldn't hurt the company, right? The fundamentals and the statistics were simply too sound. It could afford to look the other way on such a petty issue as records management and still maintain its expansive success.
Unfortunately, in spite of all of the fantastic potential, there are at least five ways that this business can encounter problems because of their laissez faire approach to records management. Let's take a look:

1. The business can be the subject of a government audit: There are many laws and statutes that regulate what types of records an organization or business must keep. If a business fails to meet these standards, the resulting fees and penalties can undermine the value of favorable earnings statements.

2. The company's headquarters can become inaccessible: Due to a malfunction in the paper-umbrella manufacturing process, the offices may become inaccessible for weeks or months at a time. Because all of the records of the company were stashed on the floor of this room, and there were no tracking systems in place, the company isn't able to reconcile its debts or track its customers or shipments, resulting in decreased efficiency and poor customer service.

3. The business can be sued: If an angry customer who has nearly choked to death on a paper umbrella sues this company, and this company cannot produce proper evidence of waivers, disclaimers, company policy notices and proof of insurance, the company may lose a major lawsuit and be forced to pay settlements that they otherwise may have avoided.

4. The business can waste money buying new space for the files: If the first file room fills up, the business will need to rent a second, and a third, and a fourth, and so on, all the while spending more and more money per month on costly rent for the office space. The business does not have an individual assigned to decide an expiry date for the documents, so they continue to pile up, with no end in sight.

5. Inefficient Access can Create Customer Service Issues: Without any proper Records Management, the company's employees spend enormous chunks of their time searching for the proper points of reference and critical files. Thousands of potentially valuable man hours are thrown down the drain.

So, as demonstrated in the points above, even though this company had the perfect business model, the best employees, and the largest customer base, it can easily experience growing pains on those five (and many more) counts. The seemingly mundane and tedious chore of keeping the records was neglected in favor of lower short-term costs, and this company is now paying the price. This should illustrate to you the importance of establishing, maintaining, and enforcing an effective Records Management strategy.

Tags: Document Management, Records Management, Business Strategy

Document Management Grants are Now Available

Posted by Michael Thomas on Tue, Jun 01, 2010 @ 06:10 PM

One of the biggest challenges for Non-Profits, Social Services organizations, and Government Agencies looking for Document Management Solutions is the challenge of obtaining funding. It seems that not a day goes by where funding isn't being cut, and the competition for precious dollars is continually growing. Recognizing this challenge, Shoreline has worked with our partners to develop a unique offering to help organizations obtain funding through Grants.

The good news is that there is a vast array of Federal, State and Foundation grants available - many of them with increased dollars from The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) - to help you invest in Document Management technologies which can allow you to serve more people and mange your applications and initiatives with increased efficiencies.  

Document Management Grants are now available, and our team can help you find the money you need to make your project a success. Shoreline Records Management, has partnered with the Grants Office experts to help you navigate the grants landscape. In cooperation with one of Our Business Partners, Hyland Software, we offer this FREE service to help determine what grants are available that could make a difference to your organization.

There are no specific qualifications, and our service will help you determine what funding may be available to make your organization more efficient with no risk or obligation. To get started, complete our Document Management Grants Analysis Form Today and we'll begin to research the available sources of funding to help you address your most challenging document management issues today.

While We can't win the grants for you, we can help you move from an interested applicant to a compelling candidate. It's time to make your old technology work better for you. With this Free Service, you'll be able to:

• Develop insight into the grant funding landscape for IT spends
• Better identify, obtain and manage grant dollars
• Improve transparency and service

Sign Up Today to take advantage of this service and find out how we can help your organization today!

Tags: Document Management, Records Management, Business Strategy

What is Archive Storage?

Posted by Michael Thomas on Tue, May 04, 2010 @ 08:59 AM

Bueller... Bueller... anyone want to take a crack at this "exciting" topic?

Archive Storage is a bit of a confusing term for many people, and oftentimes people will use the term to describe one of two things:

  1. Archival Storage of Paper Documents - If you're looking for long-term storage of paper documents, then Archive Storage is likely the way to go. Our Facility, for example, is designed to accommodate long-term retention of documents for a low-monthly fee. Pricing is based on the volume of information to be stored and the retention requirements (how long you need to keep the files), and is expressed as a Price Per Month, Per Box. For Bankers Boxes (1.2 Cu. Ft.), our monthly storage price is usually less than $.30 per box per month, but pricing can go both up and down significantly based on the total volume of information that you have.
  2. Archive Storage of Data Files - Especially now, Paper is not the only thing that you need to keep for a long time. For Data Archiving, there are a number of solutions and services available, but there are very few of these solutions that offer true long-term, permanent data archiving. If permanent Archive Storage of Data Files is important to you, then storage on Optical Media, is likely the most appealing option.

If you need to preserve your Paper Documents for a long time, we can certainly help. Contact one of our Archive Storage Experts to get pricing for your specific project. For more information about long term archiving of data, visit our partner Data Archiving Corp.

Free Records Management eBook

  

Do you understand Records Management?

Download our Free Records Management eBook today and get Practical Guidance on the importance of deploying a Records Management policy for your organization.

Tags: Document Management, File Storage, Records Management

Looking for File Storage in Manhattan? Read this first.

Posted by Michael Thomas on Mon, May 03, 2010 @ 02:20 PM
Manhattan File StorageI'm sure you've heard all the stories about the high cost of real estate in New York. Well, they're all true, and possibly the biggest waste of space in the Manhattan Skyline is the amount of space that companies are still using to store Boxes of files. In spite of the slumping real estate market, the cost per square foot in Manhattan is still astronomical, and understanding that there are much more affordable alternatives can lead to some significant savings for companies.

For example, I recently met with a Law firm that was using about 400 Sq. Ft of Prime Commercial Space on 7th Avenue for file storage, and this was just on one of their six floors! Even Now, with Midtown Manhattan's Class A space posted an average asking rental rate of $64.26 per square foot in the first quarter of 2010, the monthly cost for File Storage for this firm is $2,142.00 - Not exactly the best use of funds when you consider that you could store the same 2,000 Boxes offsite for less than $600.00 per month.

In the end, if you're still keeping old files in your high-priced office space, now might be a good time to reconsider this strategy. Your bottom line will thank you!

Photo Credit: Aturkus

Tags: File Storage, Records Management

Document archiving - where should you start?

Posted by Michael Thomas on Sun, May 02, 2010 @ 03:11 PM
DOcument ArchivingWhen starting to archive documents, many people find themselves unsure about where to begin. If you don't have a detailed records management policy in place, it can be difficult to come up with a document archiving strategy on the fly. There are a few simple approaches that you can use, however, they can make this process a whole lot easier.

1)      Archive based on creation or destruction date

Date-based document archiving is perhaps the easiest and most straightforward way to deal with document retention. This strategy requires that you either know the date that the document was created, the scheduled date at which the document will no longer be required, or ideally both these pieces of information. Date-based archiving is particularly effective for financial information, as any request that was made to review the file would likely be based on the date on which it was processed. In some instances date-based archiving also make sense when a particular transaction closes, opens, or begins a new phase in a client or vendor relationship.

2)      Archive based on frequency of retrieval

The decision to archive documents based on the frequency of retrieval may be made independent of date-based archiving or in conjunction with that strategy. Choosing to archive based on frequency of retrieval involves understanding how often content is requested and grouping information in a way that it can be quickly accessed based on how likely it is to be required. And archiving strategy based on the frequency of retrieval is perhaps the most difficult one to deploy, and will typically be a subset of either a date-based or retention-based strategy.

3)      Archive based on retention requirements

many documents that are created at a very low likelihood of retrieval. For this type of content archiving based on retention requirements is likely the most effective option. Retention-based archiving requires only that you know what you have in possession currently and how long it should be retained for. Two very common applications for retention-based archiving are mortgage lending (with a relatively finite term) and specialty medical records (where the patient may have a low chance of repeat encounters).

Keep in mind that the document archiving strategy you choose to deploy will likely be the same whether you're storing physical files or scanning your documents. In most instances the document archiving strategy will be largely dependent on the type of content being considered (financial, regulatory, etc.), and less dependent on the media in which the content is stored.

If you're looking for assistance with determining the appropriate document archiving strategy for your business, you may want to discuss your needs with one of our Records Management Consultants to verify your plan and ensure that you're making the right choices.

What is your strategy for document archiving? Are there any approaches that we've missed? If you can share your best practices with the community, be sure to add them in the Comments!

Photo Credit : Gadl

Tags: Document Management, Records Management

How much does it cost to store a box of files?

Posted by Michael Thomas on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 @ 10:09 AM
Store box of filesI'll cut right to the chase on this one - Document Storage in our Secure, Off-Site, Climate Controlled Facility starts at $.30 per Bankers Box (1.2 Cu Ft.) per month and gets cheaper from there. That means that you can store up to 100 boxes for just $1.00 Day and not have to worry about tripping over your files or losing something along the way.

The other day someone told me that they would consider storing their files with us, but that they were going to use a Self-Storage unit instead to help save space. Really?? You would rather have to pack up your own files, bring them to a Storage Unit, stack them In a little room and have to go there every time you need a file?

I was surprised to hear that this client thought that it would actually be more expensive to store their files in our warehouse than in a storage unit, so I did some quick math.

Let's take a smallish Storage Unit - Five Feet Wide - Five Feet Deep and Eight Feet High - a total of 200 Cubic Feet. If you actually want to be able to move around in there, let's assume that you can use about 60% of the available space for storage - 120 Cubic Feet - Just enough to store 100 Boxes. And the price? In the New York Area, specifically on Long Island, You can rent one of these units for about $45.00 Per Month.

But you'll still have to go there and rifle through these boxes every time you need a file, wasting valuable time and energy.

Now, you could send the same 100 Boxes to us, and we'll store them in our facility for you for $.30 each per month. That's $30.00 per month, and when you need a file, we'll do retrieve the file for you and either scan it to you on-demand or deliver it to you the same or next-business day. You'll be saving 50% on storage alone each month!

Before you make a decision on where to keep your files, take time to speak with one of our Document Storage consultants and see how much it really costs.


Tags: Document Management, Records Management

Who Owns Document Management in Your Company?

Posted by Michael Thomas on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 @ 05:54 PM
Free Records Management bookI'm not the first person to say it won't be the last but there's too much jargon and too many buzzwords thrown around by vendors today. Regardless of the technology that you're looking at, these are just complicated acronyms used to describe the different ways you can go about doing simple tasks. In the document management space I find that people are frequently bewildered by terms like ECM (Enteprise Content Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), WCM (Web Content Management), and RIM (Records and Information Management). If it's this hard just to identify what we're going to call document management, imaging how difficult it is to define who should take ownership of this function in an organization.

Let me try and make this simple. Document management is the practice of organizing and accessing information relating to the transactions and operation of an organization. If you don't like my definition that's fine, but we'd likely be arguing about semantics at that point. There's just not much more to it. Document management is simple, and in many instances it doesn't require dedicated or complicated software, or a department of people to manage it. Effective Document Management requires some planning and foresight to understand the challenges relating to two things - Organizing and Access.

For many organizations of a certain size, the person who's primarily responsible for document management has a title that actually makes sense, Records Manager. In these organizations the records manager is charged with defining detailed policies and procedures relating to the retention and retrieval of information. Oftentimes the records manager has specialized training and experience and really understands what's required to effectively manage the information of an organization. These organizations stand to benefit over time from the expertise only a true records manager can provide.

In the majority of organizations, however, this responsibility is left scattered across many departments and ultimately falls on senior management (within a regular corporate structure), an office manager (within medical and legal practices), or the business owner themselves (in many small businesses or Professional Firms). In addition to these roles many companies find ways to leave IT professionals, HR managers, and accounting staff each with a piece of the document management pie. In these instances the results are often less than stellar, as the lack of centralized focus creates fragmented processes and presents the organization with undue risk.

Think about your business. Do you have a detailed records management plan in place? Does your staff utilize a consistent methodology for organizing and accessing information? Are you adhering to retention schedules? If the answer is no, then now is the time to re-examine your document management plans. Remember to keep things in perspective - document management requires a little bit of strategy to deliver fantastic returns. If you don't have the expertise or the resources in-house, consider relying on a partner to fill the role of records manager and help with your document management needs. Whatever option you choose don't underestimate the value that an effective document management strategy can have, and don't let a lack of strategy be your excuse for inaction.


Tags: ECM, Document Management, Records Management, Business Strategy