This month’s blog is by our guest-blogger Ken Vaughan of Record Storage Systems, a Charlotte-based company specializing in helping doctors securely store their vital paper records. We’ve partnered with Record Storage Systems to help doctors manage their records storage and scanning in a secure, cost-efficient, and convenient way.
Although in recent years Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems have begun to replace paper documents, many medical practices still find themselves drowning in a sea of paper. Even without paper charting, doctors’ offices produce a lot of paper, and they still have to contend with years, sometimes even decades, of pre-EHR paper charts. So what should a modern medical practice do to strike the right balance between responsible, safe, and efficient document management and affordable, common-sense storage?
Generally, practices should make decisions as to the disposition of paper files based on state and federal record retention guidelines and compliance regulations, as well as how much access will be needed in the future. For documents that are routinely accessed and/or distributed, scanning is the preferred solution, since it allows for multi-user access and the ability to electronically route information via automated workflows. Record Storage Systems offers a scan-on-demand service that allows practices to access their records without removing the physical document from our document storage facility. This enables practices to enjoy timely, convenient electronic record retrieval. By storing offsite, and taking advantage of scan-on-demand, practices can enjoy secure hard-copy storage with quick access to records while reclaiming valuable space in their offices for revenue-producing activities.
But can’t practices just store their own documents? Sure, if they’re fans of high risk and huge HIPAA fines! Doctors’ offices and self-storage facilities don’t have full-service security monitoring. Self-storage units are particularly risky, since you have no idea what is being stored nearby (e.g. hazardous/flammable materials), security is lax, and there is no disaster relief plan in place. Other risks of storing your own documents include potential liability from having employees moving heavy boxes, occupation of valuable staff time and storage space that could be dedicated to revenue-producing activities, and potentially huge HIPAA fines in the event of document misplacement or theft.
Meanwhile, a professional records storage provider like Record Storage Systems has everything you need to ensure your peace of mind: a highly-secured, climate-controlled environment with full fire protection on site. The facility floors, walls, and ceiling are equipped with 6-inch precast ribbed concrete reinforced with rebar steel. The site is inspected twice a year with ultrasound technology for the detection of wet spots/leaks. There is a fully documented disaster relief and recovery plan in place. And if you ever need access to your files, our staff can retrieve the relevant files quickly to ensure you always have access.
When deciding whether to scan records or store them offsite in a secure facility, consider how often they will need to be accessed. If most of the documents are archived medical records or files that the practice will rarely reference in the future, the most cost-effective option is to securely store the hard copy files offsite and retrieve them occasionally when needed, either through scan-on-demand or physical delivery. For documents requiring regular access and retrieval, document scanning and electronic document management software will offer long-term conveniences and cost-saving benefits. Going paperless requires planning and consulting. Record Storage Systems works to identify challenges in your current practice processes and find opportunities for increased efficiency and streamlined workflows. No matter what your paperless goals are for 2020, we can work with you to find a customized solution that fits your needs.
And of course a medical practice isn’t just about medicine and medical records: practices are like other businesses, with paper-intensive business processes such as human resources and customer service. By implementing a record management system like Fast Layne Solutions’ iDocsNow, a practice can use a day-forward approach to ensure that such processes convert from paper to electronic storage daily, continually pushing out all documents to a safe, secured, HIPAA-compliant cloud storage platform. iDocsNow can also be used to store old charts to which you need regular access or, for whatever reason, that you choose not to store physically.
For practices not already on an EHR (or for those who are on overpriced and/or user-unfriendly EHRs), we encourage practice administrators to consider a cloud-based, tablet-optimized EHR like Fast Layne Solutions’ EMRx to move away from paper charting entirely. This reduces errors, helps cut down on insurance rejections, and improves patient outcomes. It also requires less personnel to handle and support paper files and to organize countless documents. And EMRx requires no physical storage space, or even a server, since it is cloud-based, meaning it also has zero maintenance costs. In addition, switching over to electronic medical records provides a practice with more safety and security for their patients’ confidential data, thus reducing the risk of HIPAA violations, all while increasing staff efficiency and driving profitability.