September 14, 2012 by Mitch Taube Categories: Document Management

Outside of product features, the most important question that a medical practice must answer when implementing an electronic healthcare/electronic medical record system (EMR/EHR) is: What do I do about my existing patient records?

The economic benefits of EMR/EHR are real and measurable but there are three problems:

  1. Implementation can be a long process, measured in months or years
  2. Once implemented, your system will contain no information until you start using it
  3. EMR/EHR systems were not designed to scan or manage scanned paper charts

Our recommendation: select a document management system, have an outside partner scan your medical documents and start taking advantage of going paperless today and integrating with your EMR system tomorrow. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a fully implemented EMR/EHR system but a room full of patient information trapped in paper charts.

Managing Paper is Costing you Money

In addition to revisiting your processes to implement EMR/EHR, you will also need to manage paper charts and records currently taking up space in your chart room. These records are susceptible to all of the risks and costs associated with managing paper documents, including lost information, misfiled records, paper costs, expensive copying/printing equipment, and suboptimal use of expensive office space. Unfortunately, there is no “magic pill” that magically digitizes these records but there are outside document scanning companies that focus on exactly this type of work.

Start Now

Since you know that you are going to have to scan your paper medical charts at some point, you might as well reap the benefits of having them converted into an electronic format sooner rather than later so that they can be easily integrated with your EMR/EHR system when it’s ready to go live. Scanning your medical records now has the following benefits:

  • Get Rid of the Paper: By scanning and archiving your documents, you can free up space in your office for anything other than paper. A new piece of equipment, an additional exam room, lab testing, or just a nice consultation office are all more productive uses of space than a filing cabinet and can result in increased revenue.
  • No Lost or Misfiled Documents: With document management software, all documents are always available directly from the computer since they are stored electronically. They are easily retrieved from any of your office locations and easily shared via email or printed (if need be).
  • System Independent: EMR/EHR systems were not built to easily import and manage information contained in scanned paper charts. Also, if you ever have to upgrade or migrate to a new EMR system it will be difficult and time-consuming to transfer the scanned images and data. Utilizing a document management system is the best way to store, access and manage scanned paper medical files now and integrate with your EMR/HER system in the future
  • HIPAA Compliance: electronic charts are much easier to securely distribute electronically as well as to secure via password-protected login than a room full of paper medical records that are easily accessible by anyone in your office.  Scanned medical records can also be tracked, providing you with information on who accessed them and what they did with them.
  • Ready Day 1: Once you have your EMR/EHR in place, you will already have converted your paper patient files and all historical patient information will be ready to go within it.

Outsource Scanning to Focus on Patient Care

Your team needs to focus on providing great patient care instead of conducting the labor-intensive process of prepping, scanning and indexing paper records and integrating this data with your EMR/EHR. This is why we recommend outsourcing the document scanning and document management implementation to a document imaging company that has as much experience with this line of work as you do with treating patients. Let us know if we can help.

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Learn More

  • This medical office was able to clear out paper storage space and expand the practice to increase revenue.
  • By scanning medical records and repurposing their chart room, medical practice has generated an additional $75,000 in exam revenues per year.

This is the first post in a two-part series about electronic medical records. Read the second post.