Medical Record Scanning: The always up-to-date guide

Healthcare institutions deal with large volumes of paperwork. Apart from the usual organizational data such as employee records, vendor contracts, licensing agreements, and financial documentation, healthcare companies are legally bound to store, preserve, and protect sensitive medical records and patient files.

Traditionally, healthcare institutions have been storing patient information relating to diagnosis, treatment, outcomes, and more on paper in files, folders, and cabinets within their office premises or in large off-site storage areas. It may not be easy to retrieve a specific document from storage when required. However, with the availability of the internet and mobile technology, everyone wants information at their fingertips. As a result, there is a pressing demand for quick, convenient access to healthcare information. 

Healthcare companies must modernize their paper-based medical records, digitizing them so they can easily integrate them into an electronic health records system (or EHR system) that also offers compliance with industry regulations for data security and privacy.

These digital files are easy to search, affordable to store and offer better security to protect the confidentiality of patients' information.

Medical record scanning converts paper records to digital formats so that healthcare professionals and patients can access up-to-date, real-time healthcare information from anywhere, at any time.

We've put together the ultimate guide for medical record scanning as a resource for healthcare institutions looking to transition to HIPAA-compliant electronic medical records.

What is medical record scanning? 

Typically, patients' medical records comprise patients' personal information, medical history, symptoms, medical investigations and results, diagnosis, medications prescribed, doctor's observations, outcomes, and future treatment plans.

Medical record scanning is the process of converting these patient health records from physical copies to electronic formats. 

Scanning medical records into EMRs (Electronic medical records) makes available comprehensive, digitized copies of patients' health records, consolidating a patient's medical history, including past diagnoses, current treatment, and future treatment plans.

Electronic medical records must be HIPPA-compliant, protecting data privacy and confidentiality and preventing data from falling into the wrong hands or being misused. 

Leading medical document scanning companies offer HIPAA-compliant health information scanning and indexing services for easy integration with electronic health record systems.

Can paper reduce the quality of care provided?

Paper-based medical records often prove to be a bottleneck causing delays and jeopardizing the treatment of patients when time is of the essence. For example, clinicians may have to make treatment decisions in split seconds if a patient is admitted to a hospital in an emergency. They need access to the patient's past medical history, including pre-existing diseases, allergies, chemical sensitivities and current prescription medicines, to be able to start immediate treatment. If such information is unavailable, it can mean the difference between life and death. If the data resides in a centrally accessible EHR system, these details can be immediately accessed and used to support treatment.

Switching from paper-based to digital records ensures that accurate information is available instantly for making timely, informed decisions that will help improve the quality of healthcare services and enhance patient satisfaction.

The need for accurate digital healthcare records

Access to accurate patient information is essential for the doctor-patient relationship and critical to ensure effective, patient-centric, good-quality health care. Patient outcomes primarily determine a healthcare facility's performance. Patients' trust in the healthcare institution and recommendations to their network of family and friends also depend on the effectiveness of treatment and the patient experience. 

Digital medical records, or EMRs, enable clinicians to quickly access comprehensive medical information, which is impossible with paper records. They can instantly view reports of the patient's last-tested parameters, such as blood reports and other medical imaging tests. EMRs help medical professionals manage treatment protocols and provide early intervention. 

There is a clear need for accurately scanned medical records in order to improve the quality of patient care and target better patient outcomes.

But many healthcare institutions still struggle to maintain legacy systems and deal with an overload of paperwork with manual processes. 

It's time to move to digital medical records—and the first step to digitization is medical records scanning.

 

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What are the risks for healthcare providers who count on paper processes?

Maintaining paper-based physical medical records poses many problems and risks for healthcare organizations. Ignoring these risks can prove costly in terms of the quality of care institutions can ultimately provide for their customers.

  •  High costs of storing large volumes of data

Healthcare companies deal with large volumes of data, including patients' medical history and treatments, billing and payments and doctors' prescriptions and medical transcripts. Continuous updates must be made to this information, including follow-up visits, doctors' notes, test reports, and more. Managing paper records takes up significant manual effort and time. Moreover, the volume of paper records keeps increasing with time. Commercial real estate is expensive and storing large amounts of paper takes up a lot of space. A high cost is also associated with maintaining these records on paper: the cost of paper, printing, filing and handling paper records. Digitizing medical records reduces storage costs and frees up expensive space.

  • Challenges in retrieving & sharing information

Retrieving paper documents from filing cabinets and multiple folders takes time and effort. Paper files cannot be easily shared with other medical practitioners or healthcare providers. And if you send physical documents by regular mail or courier, there is a risk of exposing sensitive data or losing the papers in transit. If a physician cannot retrieve or access paper-based historical health information or recent test reports in time to make critical treatment decisions, it may affect the quality of care the physician can provide.

  • Risk of data breaches and compliance issues

Storing, managing, and sharing paper medical records holds the risk of papers falling into the wrong hands and exposing sensitive information. Digital records are far easier to control and secure. Moreover, HIPAA regulations require organizations to create strict, highly-secure processes for managing their medical data. This means that the loss of a paper document or confusion about the ownership of a specific document can cause several significant challenges for healthcare firms. Digitizing medical records helps healthcare organizations comply with HIPAA regulations and other information governance policies. 

  • Inaccuracy due to human errors

When you maintain physical records with manual filing of paperwork, there are chances of records being filed or labeled with the wrong categories, misplaced in storage areas, or even lost. Records of patients with similar names may sometimes cause confusion. Any of these could lead to adverse effects on patient treatments. You can eliminate human error and reduce this indirect risk of human error to patients' health by adopting digitization and using advanced data capture technology to index documents automatically.

  • Degradation due to age or damage due to natural causes

In the event of natural calamities like fire, floods, or earthquakes, paper records could be permanently damaged, resulting in irreversible data loss since the information from damaged paper documents cannot be retrieved. Digitized records can be securely stored and backed up regularly at a low cost, providing an element of redundancy and preventing permanent loss of information.

 

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What are the advantages of scanning & digitizing medical records? 

Switching to electronic medical records enables healthcare providers to render better quality of service by reducing the risks associated with paper records and improving the speed and accuracy of healthcare services. 

Scanning and digitizing medical records prove a boon for the following reasons: 

  • Instant access to patient information

Digital medical records provide accurate real-time information on patient health, history, medications, and tests. Data is universally accessible from a centralized EMR system. Doctors can access patient records at any time or from anywhere—making remote care a feasible option and helping patients get the best medical advice and guidance from the best experts, even if they are halfway across the world. Surgeons or critical care experts can deal better with emergencies if they can study a patient's latest reports while they're on the way to the healthcare facility.

  • Easy communication & collaboration

Treating advanced diseases or performing complex, life-saving surgeries may involve seeking opinions and guidance from medical experts from another hospital or facility or remotely available specialists. Scanned documents ensure quick and easy communication and collaboration for making timely decisions. Some cases require experts from various specialties to collaborate to deliver holistic or comprehensive care to a patient. Sharing reports and notes and accessing real-time updates on the patient's health helps teams of specialists collaborate and provide specialized care.

  • More informed patients for better outcomes

With digitized medical records, patients get complete access to their own medical records, prescribed medicines, and future lines of treatment via the healthcare provider's portal or mobile app. They can easily access information in case of doubt or share it with another physician in another hospital. Comprehensive medical information allows patients to comply with treatment guidelines easily and leads to better results.

  • HIPAA compliance

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) law sets national standards to protect sensitive patient health information (PHI). HIPAA governs how medical information should be collected, stored, and maintained. It defines which information must be safeguarded and who can access such information. While digitizing medical records into EMRs, encryption techniques ensure compliance with HIPAA for complete data confidentiality and limit access to authorized persons only.

  • Reduce paper & storage costs

Paper and manual processes associated with paper are tedious and costly. Scanning medical documents reduces administrative costs involved in sharing information, sending physical mail and receiving and filing responses. Eliminating the need for storing physical files clears up office space and saves significant storage costs for healthcare facilities. Digitization allows healthcare companies to reallocate resources that were previously used for maintaining paper records and use them to provide better care and improved patient outcomes.

  • Saves time & effort

Managing physical files and ensuring records are up-to-date takes up time and manual effort from administrative workers. Paper processing is not just time-consuming; it is also prone to error and results in additional costs of validation and correction of those errors. Digitized medical records eliminate human error and ensure efficient updates to critical information, saving time and manual effort. 

  • Faster & more accurate treatment

Medical records scanning is vital to provide real-time, seamless access to patient medical records. Essential records, such as diagnostic tests, prior treatment details, and current prescriptions, are available on demand at the physician's fingertips. EMRs reduce the time taken to access information, evaluate the patient's current medical condition, and provide faster treatment, leading to more positive patient outcomes.

  • Increased patient satisfaction

When patients can access their digital medical records, they become more aware of their medical condition. It is more likely that they will adhere to specified treatment schedules. Better patient compliance leads to better health outcomes and increases patient satisfaction levels.

How to scan medical records

Once the healthcare company decides to convert paper records to digital formats, they have a series of important decisions to make: Should they scan the papers in-house or outsource the medical document scanning project to an experienced and qualified medical document imaging company? Should they send the documents to the scanning company's off-site scanning facility or ask for on-site scanning services?

In-house scanning requires significant resources, including equipment and technical expertise, which most healthcare institutions will not have. Also, there is the risk of poor-quality scans, incorrectly indexed files, and the added challenge of ensuring data security and privacy. Therefore, for most healthcare firms, it is better to outsource the medical records scanning project to a reputed, HIPAA-compliant scanning services provider.

DRS Imaging specializes in the secure scanning of medical records. We are geared to handle large volumes of conversion projects efficiently. Our scanning bureaus are equipped with production-grade scanners, and we use automated batch scanning to digitize large volumes of documents quickly and accurately. We can then associate the digitized records with the correct EMR and securely store them in a centralized repository for access by authorized users only. 

Best practices for scanning medical records

When it comes to scanning medical charts, high-quality scans are essential to providing accurate information. Physicians rely on these records to provide the right treatments, so errors in digital medical records can put the healthcare organization at significant risk. That's why it is critical to have a reliable and controlled scanning process to guarantee the accuracy of digitized medical records.

At DRS Imaging, we follow scanning best practices to ensure that your medical records are handled with care and the utmost security. 

  • Security

When you outsource your medical records scanning project to us, we take complete responsibility for safeguarding your documents and data. Our facilities offer 24x7 video monitoring. We carry out a background check for all employees with access to documents and issue badges for access to scanning areas.

  • Project planning

A project manager discusses scanning requirements with you, creates a project plan with timelines, and allocates resources. 

  • Trained staff

Skilled technicians accurately assess the condition of the documents and prep them for scanning. 

  • The right equipment

The documents are scanned using state-of-the-art scanners: production-grade equipment with automatic feeders and high-speed batch scanning features. 

  • Accurate indexing

Advanced OCR techniques extract key data from documents for indexing and classification. Accurate metadata means that documents are easily searchable and can be retrieved quickly using keywords.

  • Quality checks

Experts review and fix the quality of scanned documents to ensure that all documents are scanned and that output images are legible and properly indexed. 

  • Document management

We can suggest and deploy a document management system to store and control access to scanned documents.

How does DRS' medical records scanning service work?

DRS Imaging specializes in HIPAA-compliant medical records scanning under stringent SOC 2 security protocols. 

Our document scanning process typically involves the following stages:

  • Once you decide which documents you want to digitize, you can sort them and pack them in labeled boxes. 
  • Our team will securely transport them to our nearest scanning facility.
  • We create a detailed inventory of the documents once they arrive at our scanning bureau. 
  • We then carefully prep the documents for scanning. We remove any clips or staples that may interfere with the scanner. We also straighten out creases and folds so that every part of the document is exposed to the scanner.
  • Our skilled scanning teams carry out automatic batch scanning at high-quality, usually 300dpi.
  • Once scanned, the output files are saved as standard PDF or TIFF files, based on your requirements.
  • We then use automatic data capture software and apply advanced OCR techniques to extract data for indexing to make the digital files searchable.
  • Our QC teams conduct a 10-step review for the quality and accuracy of every scanned file.
  • We then migrate data in the desired format to an electronic medical record system or document management system as per your choice.
  • Finally, we return the original documents to your premises or shred them securely once they reach their expiration date, based on your preferences or as agreed upon in your project plan.

DRS Imaging: Your partner for comprehensive medical records scanning services 

As the world moves toward virtual healthcare, digital medical records are becoming indispensable for online consultations, remote follow-ups, and real-time health status reports. 

Healthcare companies and individual medical practitioners need their patient's medical history and records at their fingertips. EMRs help physicians provide rapid and high-quality medical services, from conducting an in-depth diagnosis to taking immediate action to prevent the condition from worsening and saving patients in life-threatening situations. 

When you entrust our team at DRS Imaging with your medical records scanning requirements, we provide a comprehensive solution tailored to your specific needs. We have decades of experience in document digitization, and our team has a thorough understanding of the latest HIPAA regulations

We scan and index all types of paper records and convert them into digital formats. For example, you may want to digitize consultation notes, lab notebooks, handwritten prescriptions, doctor observations made on patient charts, and inpatient or outpatient documentation. Our ML-based data capture technology can decipher cursive handwriting and accurately recognize and capture non-standard alphabets.

We help healthcare firms understand how to meet compliance regulations and provide them with document management solutions to ensure HIPAA compliance

Our consulting experts create automated workflows and reimagine your in-house data management processes to reduce risk and increase compliance. 

We have a proven track record in on-site and off-site scanning services, medical records scanning, and document management solutions.

DRS can help your healthcare company embrace technology while reducing documentation costs and achieving compliance. 

Are you ready to learn more about how we can help your institution gain a competitive advantage in today's hyper-competitive healthcare landscape? 

Contact us today to learn more about medical records scanning and our state-of-the-art automation solutions.