Maintaining clear and accurate records is the foundation of quality patient care. A proper records management plan ensures that clinicians have immediate access to the most relevant, accurate, and up to date patient records, resulting in better patient outcomes.
However, organizing your patient’s records in folders and paper files requires a ton of manual labor. And managing all that extra paperwork can quickly become cumbersome and inefficient, especially for larger medical practices.
Many healthcare providers have already begun transitioning their paper-based medical charts into digital files that can be more easily managed and stored electronically.
Digitizing your patient’s medical charts provides numerous benefits for your practice and for your patient’s health and privacy.
Unfortunately for smaller independent practices and family run businesses, this process can be far too difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to handle on their own. (Not to mention error prone.)
That’s why more and more healthcare professionals are turning to professional medical records scanning services to help support this effort to modernize patient charts.
Our article below will tell you everything you need to know to feel confident about outsourcing the process to a certified professional.
What benefits of scanning patient charts?
There are several reasons why it is important for physicians to store their patients’ records digitally, including:
- Easily meet regulatory requirements: In most jurisdictions, there are laws and regulations that require physicians to maintain certain types of records for an extended period of time. Digitizing your patient records reduces the financial burden of storing all that information by eliminating the physical storage requirements altogether. It even allows you to automatically delete records that fall outside of your retention period, ensuring that nothing is stored longer than it should be.
- Improve the quality of care: Patient records contain important information about a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, and treatment plans. Ensuring these records are accurate and up to date helps physicians identify patterns and trends, which can be used to improve the quality and efficiency of care. Unfortunately, paper records are easy to misplace which can lead to the loss of valuable information. Digital records are far more reliable as they can be backed up into multiple locations to ensure nothing is ever lost.
- Enhance communication and collaboration: Digital patient records are more easily shared between healthcare providers, which can improve communication and coordination of care for patients being seen by multiple physicians.
- Reduce legal risks: Access to properly maintained patient charts can help protect physicians from legal liability in the event of a medical error or adverse outcomes.
- Better accuracy: Digital records are less prone to errors than paper records, as they can be easily updated and corrected.
- Increased efficiency: Digital records can be accessed and updated more quickly than paper records, which can save time for both the physician and the patient.
- Reduce costs: Digitizing records can save money on supplies such as paper and ink, as well as on storage and organization.
What kinds of records can medical practices digitize?
Medical practices generate a wide variety of records, and most if not all can be digitized, including:
- Patient demographic information: This includes personal information such as name, address, phone number, and insurance information.
- Medical history: This includes information about the patient’s past medical conditions, surgeries, allergies, and medications.
- Physical exam findings: This includes notes and observations made during a physical examination, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and weight.
- Diagnostic test results: This includes results from laboratory tests, x-rays, and other diagnostic studies.
- Treatment plans: This includes information about the patient’s diagnosis, treatment options, and any medications prescribed.
- Progress notes: These are notes made by the physician during follow-up visits, detailing the patient’s progress and any changes in treatment.
- Referrals: This includes information about referrals to other healthcare providers, such as specialists or physical therapists.
- Billing and insurance information: This includes information about the patient’s insurance coverage and any charges for services rendered.
- Clinical Notes: Mental health practitioners can digitize clinical notes to help maintain accurate records of patient visits.
How long should physicians store patient charts?
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recommends that medical records be retained for at least 7 years after the date of the last patient contact. Some states have longer retention requirements for certain types of records, such as records related to minors or to medical malpractice claims.
It is important for physicians to be aware of the specific medical record retention requirements in their jurisdiction, as failure to comply with these requirements can result in legal and regulatory penalties.
What is the best way to convert paper medical charts into electronic charts?
Some medical practices choose to scan their records on their own in house. Without the proper training and experience, this can be an extremely error prone process and is not really recommended.
Others take a day-forward approach, maintaining storage for legacy records and begin entering records electronically. This can be a great option for small medical practices who may not have a ton of files to store, but it does reduce the benefits of moving to a digital system if you still need to dip into the filing cabinet to find the information you need.
Often, the best solution is to hire a HIPAA certified scanning company capable of scanning your patients charts quickly, securely, and affordably.
Leaning into the expertise of a seasoned professional can help you avoid the many caveats encountered when attempting to handle this difficult task on your own. It also frees your staff from the administrative headaches involved in the process and reduces your liability should something go wrong.
What is patient chart scanning?
Patient chart scanning is a highly specialized process that allows medical practitioners to securely convert paper medical records into a text-searchable archive of digital files.
Using specialized scanning equipment, high resolution digital images of your charts are created. Then, each image is processed with OCR software, which extracts and digitizes written and printed text found in the image.
Once the charts have been digitized, they can be stored electronically on an SFTP or uploaded into an EMR, making it easier to access, share, and manage them.
The biggest difference between patient records scanning and any other kind of scanning project are the strict privacy and security requirements.
All staff must be trained and HIPAA certified to be able to handle PII and PHI. Scanning facilities must also be access restricted and highly secure. Not every scanning company is properly certified as HIPAA complaint, so be sure to ask your provider if they are.
So what comes next?
If you’re ready to modernize your practice by digitizing your patient charts, we can help. SecureScan has been a leading provider of HIPAA compliant scanning solutions to hospitals, medical practices, therapists and other healthcare professionals for more than 20 years. Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you digitize your patient records.
If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge, give our document scanning cost estimator tool a try to find out how much you’ll save when you choose us for your next project.