Medical Records Scanning: The Complete Guide

Everything you need to know about document scanning for the healthcare industry.

Medical employee using scanned documents from an ipad

For medical practices and healthcare facilities, meeting the needs of patients comes first. Unfortunately, this huge responsibility comes with a TON of paperwork. 

And the worst part? Medical practices are legally required to store all of this documentation, some of which must be kept on file for years.

While most businesses are moving away from paper wherever possible, the healthcare industry is quickly falling behind, and the paperwork is piling up. 

And for good reason. In addition to the standard employee recruitment and hiring documents, compensation and benefits records, and payroll documents a typical business is responsible for, medical practices are also faced with the unique challenge of protecting and storing sensitive patient information. And that is no easy task, especially for records that are stored on paper. 

Fortunately, there is a safe and easy way to convert large volumes of paper medical records into a secure archive of digital files, which can then be easily integrated into any electronic health records system. 

Medical document scanning services are the fastest and most effective way to modernize your record keeping system. By working with a HIPAA compliant document scanning company,  you’ll be able to convert your paper medical records into an easy-to-use, easy-to-search archive of digital files, while ensuring that the confidentiality of your patient data is protected.  

If you’re looking to save space, reduce costs, and improve patient care, there is no better way than moving away from paper record-keeping processes. 

Our guide will tell you everything you need to know about medical document scanning services, the challenges you will face, and the benefits of becoming a paperless practice. 

Paper can reduce the quality of care provided

There is a high demand for technology that can improve the quality of care provided to patients while reducing administrative costs. Electronic medical systems do just that, providing numerous benefits for practitioners and patients alike. These benefits include:

  • The ability to provide accurate, up to date information about patients at the time care is administered.
  • Immediate access to patent records, making it easier to administer coordinated care.
  • Improve patient/provider communication
  • Better protect the confidentiality and security of private patient data.
  • Reduce or eliminate the administrative costs associated with paper

Unfortunately, many providers find themselves shackled by legacy systems and manual processes they have relied on for many years, afraid to “fix what isn’t broken”. 

As a result, it is not uncommon to find a patchwork of electronic applications and paper practices operating side by side in many medical offices. Of course, this isn’t the ideal situation, as this can lead to data loss, information theft, or worse.

Faced with tens of thousands of paper medical records to be indexed and converted, the task of going fully paperless can seem overwhelming, especially when your main focus is providing care to patients. 

But ignoring the issue of paper is turning a blind eye to the facts: paper medical records jeopardize the quality of care provided to patients.

That’s because managing an effective paper records system presents a number of challenges to providers and their employees including:

  • Difficulty retrieving and sharing patient files with other providers
  • Increased risk of exposing sensitive patient information
  • Inability to capture and preserve records quickly and accurately
  • Potential for lost medical history or missing data

By moving to a centralized electronic medical record system (EMR), providers can easily overcome these hurdles, but the path to get there isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

Medical practices must adhere to strict regulations to protect patient confidentiality, including HIPAA compliance rules. For this reason, digitizing medical records needs to be done with a high level of scrutiny. Important consideration must be taken to ensure that any and all confidential patient records are converted and uploaded in compliance with data protection regulations.

There is also a risk of lost data when moving between any two systems, so a carefully planned transition is vital. 

This is why so many medical practices and healthcare providers are turning to medical scanning services to help facilitate this transition. 

A professional document scanning company can help you avoid the many common pitfalls encountered when migrating paper medical records to an electronic system while ensuring you stay compliant with HIPAA regulations.

What are the risks for healthcare providers who rely on paper?

The continued reliance on outdated paper record-keeping systems poses a number of problems and risks to any healthcare organization. These challenges can negatively affect the quality of care provided and should be considered when weighing the option to digitize medical records. 

These are a few examples of issues encountered by healthcare organizations that still rely on paper record-keeping systems.

The high cost of paper

Healthcare providers are required to store and maintain a large volume of sensitive data at any given time, and the administrative inefficiencies attributed to working with paper records can create unnecessary financial overhead.

Employee time spent managing and organizing these records can also add up quickly. According to research provided by Gartner, workers can spend on average 20-30% of their time managing documents. That’s a lot of time wasted, and time wasted is money wasted.

In addition to the cost of managing paper, medical records need to be stored, often for long periods of time. Office space is expensive, and paper storage can take up a ton of it. Digitizing medical records eliminates your data’s physical footprint,  reducing storage costs and freeing up space for more important uses.

Compliance Issues

Healthcare organizations handle sensitive confidential data on a daily basis. Paper medical records expose healthcare providers to a heightened risk of compliance-related issues as protecting this data can be difficult. This is due to the insecurity of paper itself; It can easily be lost, stolen, mishandled, or mislabeled.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides the baseline privacy and security standards for medical information, requiring healthcare professionals to make an honest effort to protect a patient’s privacy by protecting sensitive data. 

Violations of these regulations can be devastating to any medical practice, as fines and fees for non-compliance can soar into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on the circumstances. 

Moving to an electronic health records system helps you circumvent these possible compliance pitfalls by greatly enhancing the security of your documents. It does this by allowing organizations to implement strict access control to patient records while eliminating the possibility of misplacing or losing data. 

Human Error

While mistakes and errors are bound to happen in any workplace,  sensitive medical records which have been misplaced or misfiled by an employee can lead to the exposure of PHI (private health information) or worse, adverse patient outcomes. Paper documents can easily be inserted into the wrong file or folder, miscategorized, or even lost. 

Electronic document systems reduce the possibility of human error common when paper passes hands while implementing clear organizational methods and structure to your data. 

Ongoing Maintenance 

Every patient seen generates data: medical images, clinicians’ notes, charts, and more. Maintaining these records can feel like swimming head-on directly into a tidal wave. Additionally, there are very few systems in place for tracking and indexing medical records as they are generated. 

This leaves staff members without an effective method of capturing and preserving records as they are created, adding an unnecessary burden on administrative staff and creating a paperwork bottleneck that can easily clog the system. 

Even with multiple administrative employees, you may feel like you’re drowning in paperwork. This presents a clear choice for medical providers looking to reduce the administrative requirements of their daily operations.

Medical Data Breaches 

Over the last decade, data breaches in the healthcare industry have increased drastically. In fact, the healthcare industry as a whole has the 4th highest number of data breaches among all other industries in the US. The number of patients affected by these breaches annually reaches well into the millions. 

Unfortunately, the high value of PHI drives many of these data breaches.  Credit card numbers, bank accounts, and other financial information has a short lifespan, since these pieces of data are valid only until a breach is detected. 

Medical records on the other hand are significantly more valuable to data thieves and much broader in utility. The information stored in these records can be used to commit fraud or identity theft, and provide enough details to allow bad actors to employ social engineering tactics to steal even more PII.  

For this reason, it is vital that healthcare providers actively work to protect PHI and ePHI. By migrating to a secure, electronic document management system, healthcare providers can eliminate the risks associated with paper data breaches, while 

Patient Health

Paper record-keeping processes pose indirect/hidden risks to patient health. When a patient’s medical records are stored in a  paper filing system, the chance that a clinician may not have access to an important piece of critical historical health information rises dramatically.

It also means that patient records are more difficult to access in an emergency, where direct physical access to paper records may be required, electronic records can be easily shared. 

Data Loss

Paper records are particularly prone to irreversible damage, loss, or theft, putting healthcare organizations in jeopardy of losing patient data or worse,  falling out of HIPAA compliance. Electronic files can be securely stored in perpetuity at a low cost to the provider and generally cannot be damaged or lost, considering that most electronic records systems store data in redundancy. 

What are the benefits of digitizing medical records?

Moving to a paperless model enables healthcare providers to deliver improved patient care and better quality of service by reducing the administrative tasks associated with patient records. 

Eliminating paper allows staff to focus more energy on patient care and spend less time filing paperwork. 

The immediate benefits gained when moving to a paperless model include:

  • Instant access to patient records and medical history from within a central EMR system
  • Reallocation of office space previously occupied with filing cabinets and storage boxes for more important, clinical purposes.
  • Maintain HIPAA compliance by strengthening security and limiting access to sensitive information
  • Integrate patient files from incoming doctors joining your practice more easily, and share medical files with other providers enabling collaborative care. 
  • Easily add electronic on-boarding systems / e-forms, reducing data entry requirements
  • Maintain accurate, clear,  and well organized patient records, offering improvements to the quality of care provided

But that’s not all you’ll gain by going paperless. Additional benefits include: 

Increased Efficiency

Dealing with paper medical records is an incredibly time-consuming and inefficient use of resources for any healthcare provider. 

Manual filing and data entry takes time, which is why many healthcare providers hire staff dedicated to the task. 

Digitizing your records eliminates much of the administration work you’re used to when dealing with paper. 

The need for safe, secure, and instant access to medical information is not possible with paper document storage. By digitizing your records, your information is instantly accessible.

Improvements to Patient Care

Electronic health record systems help to strengthen the relationship between patients and their clinicians by enabling providers to make better, more informed decisions regarding patient health. 

For this reason alone, the investment into medical records scanning and conversion can prove to be one of the best decisions a medical practice can make for its patients. 

A few examples of how implementing an EMR can improve patient care are:

  • Reducing the chances of medical errors by improving the accuracy of patient records
  • Making accurate historical health information instantly accessible and available to clinicians
  • Reducing the chances of duplicated tests or repeated interventions
  • Helping clinicians and patients make better informed health decisions. 

Converting paper medical records to a highly organized archive of digital files makes it possible to find patient information much more quickly while eliminating wasted resources on paper. It also makes the process of providing patients with the medical records they need when seeing a specialist or moving to another practice much easier. And as an added benefit, the space you save by eliminating onsite paper storage could be used to provide additional patients with high-quality services they can benefit from.

In addition to these benefits, electronic records enable doctors and nurses to access medical data securely from any location, which allows a clinician to review patient records and make informed health decisions, even when not physically present.

How do you digitize medical records?

Once a healthcare provider has made the decision to migrate their data into a digital record-keeping system, the next step is to convert all existing records. There are two approaches that can be taken to get there.

Do it yourself.

The first option is to handle the data conversion yourself. While it could be perceived as the simple, more affordable option, the question any healthcare provider needs to ask before taking on such a task is “do I trust that the employees who will be handling this task have the training and expertise to correctly scan and index each and every file without error?”. 

The risks of data breaches, incorrectly indexed files, and poor quality scans are too high to take and can be costly to mitigate.  

What could seem like a lack of confidence in the abilities of your employees to complete the task is actually just facing the reality that scanning and indexing a large volume of files with a high level of accuracy is very difficult, and building.

In most cases, handling the process yourself is not the best decision. 

Hire a document scanning company 

When you need fast, accurate, and high-quality medical records scanning services, your best bet is to hire a professional document scanning company like SecureScan.  SecureScan is a HIPAA compliant medical records scanning company with more than 18 years of experience helping healthcare providers safely and securely convert patient records for upload into an EMR system. 

Our scanning and indexing pipeline is tried and tested, designed from the ground up for efficiency and accuracy. We make the process of converting any volume of confidential medical records safe, easy, and affordable.

How does SecureScan’s medical records scanning service work?

The process of scanning medical records is straightforward, and can be broken down into 7 basic steps. 

  1. Pack up your documents, and we’ll come pick them up. No other preparation is required. If you prefer, SecureScan staff will arrive at your location to package your documents for you. Our team will handle all of the loading, just point to your boxes and we’ll take care of the rest.
  2. We will create a detailed inventory of your documents, and then securely transfer your documents to our scanning facility. After your documents arrive at our facility, a second inventory will be taken and documented to verify that every document is accounted for. 
  3. Our processing team will prepare your documents for our scanners. This includes removing staples and paperclips, taping down sticky notes, and removing creases that may interfere with the scanning process. 
  4. Each document is then scanned and converted into a high resolution image file. Every image is manually inspected by a scanning technician, who will verify the quality and clarity of the resulting image. Any image that does not accurately reproduce the original document will be re-scanned.
  5. Depending on your specific needs, important data will be extracted from your documents through a combination of OCR and manual data entry. This information will become searchable metadata you can use to easily locate any file. 
  6. Your data will be converted into the desired format and stored in an electronic health record system or document management system of your choice.
  7. Your physical files can either be returned packaged exactly as it arrived, or permanently destroyed by our NAID® Certified document destruction team. 

To to get a free customized quote for your scanning project, all you need to do is to complete the following steps:

  • Request a quote online or call us at (877) SCAN-DOC.  Be sure to include a rough estimate of the number of patient records you need scanned, and the type of detail you will need to capture.
  • We will use this information to create a customized quote, and answer any additional questions you have about the scanning process.

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