If your business is having a hard time keeping up with the influx of paperwork that must be managed, you are not alone.
In fact, most businesses who rely on paper record keeping for their day-to-day operations will eventually find themselves buried in paper piles and overstuffed filing cabinets, desperate for some semblance of organization and order.
The truth is, manual record-keeping is pricey, time-consuming, and error prone, not to mention boring. For these reasons (and many more), many companies are taking steps to migrate their records into electronic records management systems.
An electronic records management system can help your organization take full control over your records, transforming your manual record keeping processes into modern and intuitive digital record-keeping systems that can be searched, backed up, and secured with relatively minimal effort.
But how do you know if electronic records management is right for your business?
In this article, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of digital record management, the advantages of going digital, as well as a few things to watch out for as you make the transition from paper to digital.
What is an Electronic Records Management System?
An electronic records management (ERM) system is a special type of software designed to help businesses manage and organize their business records.
A typical ERM system provides a complete framework for records management, including access controlled storage, version control, and an intuitive interface for accessing, searching, and analyzing records.
Electronic records management systems can also automate some of the more intricate facets of records management, including encryption, chain-of-custody reports, and the destruction of records that fall outside of your retention policy.
What are the Key Features of an Electronic Records Management System?
Electronic records management systems differ in sophistication, user-friendliness, and feature sets. While each caters to a particular audience or industry, it is important to consider the most powerful features of an ERM system.
Secure Data Storage
A large number of data breaches occur due to improper records storage. Sensitive personal data is invaluable to criminals, who will take advantage of any security loophole they can find to access and extract it.
Unfortunately, security breaches can come from something as simple as neglecting to lock a filing cabinet housing medical records or as something as intricate as improperly setting up cloud storage access permissions.
An electronic records management system shields users against these kinds of errors by coming prepackaged with security features to ensure your records are stored securely. Your selected solution should provide top-notch physical security, leading-edge data encryption, both at rest and during transmission, and access logs to track who accessed your data and when.
Flexible Access Management Tools
Storing your sensitive information is just one component of a comprehensive record management system. Your employees also need efficient and secure access to records in order to streamline business operations and meet your auditing and reporting demands.
And that access needs to be meticulously managed via an identity and access management system to ensure that critical documents can only be viewed by authorized users.
Industry-Specific Compliance Capabilities
Staying compliant with various data and privacy regulations is one of the most difficult record management challenges a business can face.
Sensitive data is governed by numerous regulatory standards with strict requirements, including HIPAA, FERPA, FACTA, SOX, and several others. These rules vary depending on the data type, and they change frequently.
Your electronic records management system should help you comply with relevant regulations throughout the document lifecycle, incorporating features such as chain-of-custody management and reports, record retention and destruction schedules, and compliant digital storage and record delivery systems.
Automated Record Retention
The disposal of records is just as important as their storage. Regulatory standards require businesses to retain records for a specific period, after which they must be securely disposed of.
When exploring an electronic records management vendor, consider the importance of automated retention. Hanging on to sensitive documentation longer than required increases the risk of a privacy breach. By deleting these records that fall out of your retention requirements, you can ensure you possess the least amount of sensitive information possible at all times.
Integration with Existing Business Systems
It’s not practical to shift to a completely new system just to implement compliant records management. Instead, a records management system should be compatible with your current processes. For instance, if your business utilizes Microsoft Office 365 or DocuSign, make sure to ask vendors whether their electronic records management systems can integrate with those products to ensure comprehensive record management is part of your existing operations.
How to Choose The Right ERM System
When looking at the many different electronic document management systems available on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your business. Each one offers unique features and selling points to entice would-be customers, so it is important to ask yourself a few questions about your organization’s needs in order to hone in on the right software.
- What does your organization need from this system now, and what might it need in the future?
- What will be the primary use for your ERM system?
- What types of documents will you be managing with your new ERM system?
- Are you moving old documents into this system?
- What sort of additional information (or ‘metadata’) are you planning to use, and who will be responsible for adding that information to future records?
- Which documents do you need to access regularly, and which will simply be archived for historical purposes?
- How are you going to organize your documents in the system? (invoice numbers, po numbers etc)
- How will documents be removed from the ERM system when they are no longer needed? (automated or manually)
- Does the ERM system have any features that make it easier to move, change, or transfer documents?
- Are there any features you really can’t live without? Are there any ‘nice-to-have’ extras that could sway your opinion on a particular ERM system?
- Does the ERM system work with the systems you already have in place, like your email and databases?
How to migrate paper records into an ERM System?
Transferring paper records to an electronic records management system can be a sizable task, but it’s often a necessary step in the digital transformation of a business. Just remember that you are NOT in uncharted territory. There are several different ways to approach this process, with your choice depending on a the nature of your business including:
- Scan Them Yourself: This is the most direct and straightforward method. Documents are manually scanned and uploaded into the system by designated members of your organization. While this method can be extremely time-consuming, it’s a necessary step for businesses who wish to digitize older documents, but don’t have room in their budget to outsource the process.
- Bulk Document Scanning Services: For businesses with a large quantity of documents, it is far more efficient to outsource the scanning process. Professional scanning companies that provide bulk scanning services have the equipment and the staff to facilitate high-speed, high-volume scanning, and can handle everything from basic documents to sensitive materials. Many companies provide integration directly to your ERM, saving you a ton of effort and money.
- Data Entry: This involves manually entering the data from paper records into your ERM system. It’s labor-intensive and can be prone to errors, but might be necessary in some cases, particularly where documents can’t be scanned or if the information is required in a specific digital format.
- Hybrid Approach: Sometimes, a combination of these methods is the best way forward, particularly for larger organizations with a wide range of document types.
Remember, during the migration process, it’s important to maintain the integrity and security of the records. Metadata (such as the date of creation or last modification) should be preserved during the transition, and confidential records should be handled in compliance with relevant privacy protection laws and regulations. Always make sure to have a well-thought-out plan and potentially seek advice from IT professionals or consultants to ensure a smooth transition.
What is an EHR system?
An Electronic Health Record (EHR) system is an electronic records management system designed specifically to address the challenges of storing and managing medical records. It serves as a centralized repository for patient records, helping healthcare providers access, update, and share patient data securely.
An EHR system goes beyond the basic functionalities of an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system. While an EMR focuses primarily on a patient’s medical history within a specific healthcare organization or practice, an EHR provides a more holistic view of the patient’s health across various care settings.