As doctors’ offices, hospitals, medical clinics and other healthcare organizations move towards adopting electronic records systems, often the question remains as to how to deal with the cabinets or storage rooms full of legacy paper patient records.
While every digital transformation project presents unique challenges, there are common themes or best practices to keep in mind in order to ensure success.
Determine the Goal of Digitization
Do these patient records need to be digitized for retention purposes alone, or will users need to access the records on a regular basis? Can there be a separate archive to house the digitized paper records, or must they be stored within the EMR system? Can each chart be scanned as one record, or does each visit or document type need to be separated out to aid in search-ability? These are key questions that will determine the scope of the digital transformation project and the extent of any integration / file naming requirements.
Estimate the Volume of Paper to be Scanned
Before starting to count the number of filing cabinets / boxes there are to be scanned, you may consider whether there certain forms or pages within the charts that do not need to be scanned. If so, there may be value in manually purging the records prior to scan. The time and resources dedicated to undertaking such a project would have to be compared with the per page scanning cost savings that would result to determine whether purging the charts is a worthwhile endeavour. Once a purge has taken place (or skipped if unnecessary), the total number of boxes, drawers, filing cabinets etc. can be measured and tallied to estimate the total volume of paper to be scanned. A scanning partner with expertise in this area can assist with this exercise.
Clarify the Scanning Parameters
The details of the actual scanning will have to be confirmed – including whether post-it notes should be scanned or purged; whether documents are required to be scanned in colour or B&W; what resolution is required; can the actual chart folders be purged or should they be scanned, and so on.
Leverage Digital Data Files
Work with your scanning partner to understand what information would be helpful to efficiently name each file in the appropriate syntax for future access (either from within your EMR or other archival location). If there are digital data files available including information such as patient name, DOB, doctor of record, and so on, this could improve the efficiency with which the charts can be digitized thus assisting in lowering the cost.
Consider the Logistics of Scanning
Are the paper charts active, or are they unlikely to be accessed in the near future? If the office may need to access these charts during the scanning project, you should consider working with a scanning partner who can facilitate urgent retrievals or frequent smaller shipments (to minimize the number of charts offsite at any given time). As well, if support is required from records management or the administration team to pack the charts and log them appropriately, make sure the necessary resources are in place to ensure a smooth start to the scanning process once the courier is scheduled!
Partnering with an experienced outsource scanning provider is critical as they can assist you in scoping your project and understanding all the decisions that will have to be made to lay the groundwork for a successful digital transformation. To learn more, contact Octacom today!
Octacom is a SOC 2, Type II Audited enterprise software and services company focused on document and data automation solutions, including automated data capture. Founded in 1976, Octacom specializes in accounts payable automation and automated invoice processing, among other digital / automated business process outsourcing services.
If your organization is looking to learn more about our solutions and services, please contact us and we would be glad to help.