How Does Document Scanning Work?

The document scanning process in 10 simple steps.

Binders full of documents that need to be scanned

Converting thousands, or even millions of paper records into an efficient, easy to use electronic record keeping system is no easy task.

In fact, there are a lot of things that can go wrong along the way that can turn this process into a waking nightmare.

That’s why businesses typically outsource their document scanning projects to a third party scanning provider like SecureScan. 

Hiring a professional document scanning company ensures that the process goes smoothly from start to finish, helping you avoid the common pitfalls encountered when trying to tackle the job on your own.

However, when it comes time get started with one of these large scanning projects, people typically have a lot of questions about how the scanning process works.

And rightfully so, handing over your sensitive records to a complete stranger is not for the feint of heart.

Don’t worry, the process is actually quick and painless. Read below to learn more out how the document scanning works from start to finish, broken down into 10 easy steps.

1. Determine What Documents Needs to Be Scanned

The first step you should take, ideally before you contact a scanning company, is to determine which documents you will need to scan, and which documents you don’t. 

Chances are, you don’t need to digitize every single record you have on file. Scanning documents that are no longer useful to your business is a waste of your valuable time and resources. 

That doesn’t mean you need to sort through every single document one-by-one. Your main goal here is to estimate how many documents you need to scan, which will be valuable information to have in your back pocket as you shop around for a company to carry out the work. 

Scanning companies generally base their quotes on a the volume of materials to be scanned, and the number of indexes (searchable fields) you need to extract from your documents. 

The more accurate your estimate is, the more accurately a prospective scanning company can predict the cost / time commitment for your project.

Tip: If you have stored your files in boxes, filing cabinets, or drawers and don’t want to go through the painstaking process of counting them one by one, you can use our document scanning cost estimator, which includes tools to help you estimate the number of documents you have based on how they are stored.

2. Choose a Document Scanning Company

The next step is to choose a reputable scanning company to complete your project. Get in touch with a few different companies if possible, in fact, we encourage our customers to shop around. 

You will want to provide as much information about your requirements as you possibly can, as this will help avoid surprises both for you, and the company you ultimately choose to complete your project. 

If any of the documents you plan on scanning contain sensitive information like PII (personally identifiable information) or PHI (personal health information), make sure the company you choose has the necessary certifications to process those documents.

SecureScan is HIPAA certified, Soc 2 compliant, and undergoes frequent security  audits to ensure our processes comply with the most stringent data privacy requirements. But not every scanning company puts this kind of effort into security, so don’t make any assumptions. Ask!

That brings us to the last point, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Your documents are important, and you deserve to have your questions answered before you hand over your records. Any unwillingness to walk you through the process is a red flag.

If you are unsure what kind of questions you should be asking during the interview process, you’re in luck. Read our companion article: 5 questions you should ask a scanning company before you hire them.

3. Packing and Pickup

Next, you’ll need to pack up your documents so that they can be transported to the scanning facility. 

It’s best if your documents are packaged in an organized and logical manner.  Keeping documents of a similar type together makes it easier to track your data as it moves through the scanning process. And should you require access to one of your documents during the process, knowing roughly where it is will make it much easier to find.

Each box of documents will be assigned a unique barcode, and an inventory of its contents will be made to ensure that every document is tracked and accounted for throughout the process. 

A secure chain of custody is maintained at all times to protect the confidentiality of your records, and to ensure our processes meet the highest standards in security.

TIP: If you need help packing your documents, we can provide this service for an additional fee. Our team will supply all the materials and labor involved with preparing your documents for transportation.

4. Transportation of your documents

Next, your documents will be transported directly to the scanning facility for processing.

Check with your provider to make sure this process is not outsourced to a third party contractor. It’s important your documents are handled by trained professionals from start to finish.

In our case, your documents are transported directly to our facility by the same team who picked them up, in the same vehicle. All of our delivery teams drive company owned or leased vehicles and are insured and bonded to ensure the safety of your records. 

Once your documents arrive, the delivery is inspected against the initial inventory to ensure everything is accounted for. A record of the transfer from the delivery team to the scanning facility is made in the chain of custody paperwork. 

5. Document Preparation

Next, your documents need to be prepared for scanning. This step includes the removal of staples, paperclips, and creases that may interfere with the scanning process. 

Any handwritten sticky notes will be taped down so they can be included in the final scan (if requested). Torn pages will be repaired when possible, and bundled documents are separated and stacked in chronological order.

6. Document Scanning

The next step in the process is scanning your documents. In most cases, a hand picked selection of documents that represent the overall body of materials will be pulled aside for calibration. These documents will be scanned, and the resulting images reviewed by a technician to ensure the optimal quality of the final digital images are produced. 

Your documents will be scanned with commercial quality scanning equipment at a high resolution (300dpi or greater) to ensure optimal quality and readability of your digital copies.

In most cases, your files will be saved in a highly compatible format, such as .PDF or TIFF depending on your requirements. 

7. Indexing

One of the most important steps in the document scanning process is indexing. Indexing creates a structure for your data, and is essentially a table of context for your records.

To create an index, important identifiers are extracted from each document, including IDs, names, or invoice numbers, or any other information deemed important and unique enough to be made text-searchable. 

Through a combination of various technologies, these fields are extracted and attached to your file within the database, including:

  • OCR technology – Converts printed text into machine readable characters
  • Zonal Recognition – Another type of OCR used to read information in specific areas of a document, often used when digitizing forms
  • OMR – Optical mark recognition can be used to process information marked in fields, on surveys or tests
  • Barcode Readers – Extract information from existing barcodes
  • Manual Data Entry – Data that can not otherwise be easily extracted can be digitized by hand

8. Quality Control

Next, quality control will be performed to ensure that the images created during the scanning process are the same or greater quality as the original document.

In our case we review each and every scan manually to verify that your documents have been accurately reproduced. Any images that fail to meet our high quality standards are rescanned.

In the case of manually extracted data, we implement double blind data entry processes to ensure 99.9% accuracy. Every document is transcribed by two data entry specialists. Any differences in the output are reviewed and corrected by a third person. 

9. Your Receive Your Digital Files

After quality control has been completed and the final output has been thoroughly vetted, the final digital version of your files are relinquished to you.

In many cases, your files will be uploaded to a secure SFTP, delivered on an encrypted hard drive or thumbnail, or integrated directly into your existing records management software. 

If you don’t have an existing records management solution, we can set one up for you.

10. Document Shredding or Return Delivery

Once your project is complete, you may want your documents returned to you for storage. In this case, your documents are repackaged back into the same boxes they were received in and returned to your office for storage. 

The original inventory sheet taken at the beginning of your project will be used to verify that your documents are returned exactly as they were before the scanning process took place. 

If you no longer have a use for your original documents, we can securely shred them with our NAID® Certified Shredding Service. Documents are typically stored securely for 30 days before shredding in case of any unforeseen circumstances. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re ready to start your next scanning project, SecureScan can help. We have been digitizing documents for businesses, government agencies, universities, hospitals, and more for over 19 year. Get in touch with one of our technicians for a free quote. 

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