HIM Best Practices For Scanning Into The Electronic Health Record (EHR)

Charlie Disclosure Management, Leadership, Outsourcing 7 Comments

Scanning Information Into The Electronic Health Record (EHR)

It’s a fact. Without HIM best practices for scanning information into the electronic health record (EHR), organizations run the risk of poor quality images that are unreadable, unreliable, and that could pose significant risk to patients.

It isn’t difficult to imagine a scenario in which a physician can’t make a critical medical decision because he or she can’t see the image clearly. What if the physician makes a decision based on information that shouldn’t have been scanned into that particular EHR (i.e., information that belongs to another patient)? Poor quality images also pose risk related to HIPAA. What if the scanned information is subsequently released to a patient who shouldn’t have access?

Many organizations are faced with an insurmountable volume of information stored in paper records that they must somehow either incorporate into the EHR or retain in some way (e.g., at an offsite storage location). Some organizations decide to do both—that is, digitize the information and then retain paper records pursuant state and federal law. Either way, the process of scanning information into the EHR requires an impeccable attention to detail as well as clear policies and procedures to ensure compliance.

Why HIM’s Voice Is Vital

When setting parameters for scanning, HIM leadership must help answer these five important questions:

  1. Will the organization scan from a designated date forward, or will it back-scan paper records?
  2. If back-scanning, how far back in time will HIM go when scanning? It’s important to be at the decision-making table as much as possible to voice concerns and raise questions. For example, how might back-scanning affect current-day workflow? Will additional FTEs be necessary? Is additional technology necessary? Does the current technology support an efficient workflow?
  3. Do current staff members possess the skill sets necessary to prep, scan, index, and perform quality control? Is additional training required? It may be less expensive to outsource these functions. If retaining the labor in-house, determine whether each step will be a separate activity performed by a different individual.
  4. How will scanned documents be stored? Will they be part of the EHR or stored in a separate file online?
  5. What policies and procedures must the organization create to detail scanning procedures for each type of scenario that an employee (or outsource staff member) might encounter? For example, does the process differ when scanning external vs. internal documents? External documents could include documents from another provider as well as from the patient him or herself. Will any of the scanning take place concurrently (i.e., while the patient is still admitted)?

HIM Best Practices For Scanning

Setting forth best practices helps employees (or outsource staff members) ensure compliance and consistency. Consider the following four best practice steps that every scanning process should include:

Step 1: Prep the record. This step not only ensures that the record passes smoothly through the scanner, but it also helps enhance data integrity. Consider the following:

  • Remove all staples as well as chart dividers and post-it notes. Tape down any loose documents. Smooth the documents so they don’t include any folds or wrinkles. Ensure that no documents are stuck together. Use caution when separating or tearing documents apart.
  • Ensure that all documents follow a clear chronological/sequential order. This is particularly true for flow sheets.
  • Ensure that all documents belong in the medical record. To do so, verify whether the patient identifier is correct and consistent on every page.

Step 2: Index the record. (This could also be part of prepping the record) During this step, each document is assigned a value at the point of scanning. Consider the following:

  • Index documents according to their specific type (e.g., history and physical, consultation, etc.).
  • Validate the patient name on all documents.
  • Confirm that the identity of the patient listed in the paper documents corresponds with the identity of the patient in the EHR.

Step 3: Scan the record. This phase includes the actual scanning of the documents and requires strict attention to detail. Consider the following:

  • Fan through the documents. Shake the stack of documents to ensure that no staples are stuck between the pages.
  • Begin the scanning process. Keep your eyes on the screen to monitor the quality of the scanned imagine.
  • If a line appears on the scanned image, stop scanning and clean the glass of the scanner.
  • Document your initials and the date on the cover sheet.

Step 4: QA the record. This step provides an opportunity to catch errors and improve processes going forward. Consider the following:

  • Task each employee with QAing another employee’s indexed batch.
  • During the QA process, verify the patient name, medical record number, and date of service. Ensure that this information is consistent on all remaining documents by quickly glancing at every thumbnail page.
  • Re-index any documents, as needed.

What are your organization’s scanning best practices? What are your biggest challenges? To learn more about MRA’s scanning support services, visit our Scanning Support section.

Contact MRA For Our Professional Services In Outsourcing Health Information Managment

Comments 7

    1. Hi Lisa,
      My department scans 30 inches per day and we have 15 FTE’s. We calculate need based on expectations. To prep, we expect 17 minutes per inch. To index and validate documents, we expect about 35 seconds per document.

  1. Hello Allie,

    what processes are required in your prep process?

    Are you removing staples, placing patient identifiers, taping down EKGs, etc. Making sure the right patient’s name and # are on the documents?

    Thank you kindly for your response.

    1. Best Practice:
      All staples, paperclips and Post It notes will be removed. • All loose documents will be taped down. • Attached, multipart documents will be processed according to facility protocol. • Like documents will be grouped together in chronological/sequential order. • Each page is checked for Patient Name, MRN#, Account Number and Date of Service. • Each page is checked for a Bar Code. If the Bar Code is missing, staff will look up the document information in the designated manual and print a label. • Multi page documents will be sorted in ascending order. • Pages will be checked for legibility. If there are issues, staff will follow facility protocol. • If missing pages are detected, staff will follow facility protocol. • Prepped records will be placed in the designated area awaiting scanning. • Prepped records will be scanned into the EMR. • Documents will be monitored for quality as they are being scanned. • Scanned records will be placed in the designated area awaiting QC. • All pages will be QC’d for Patient Name, MRN#, Account Number, Date of Service and legibility. •

        1. Karen,

          I am responding on behalf of Susan. Unfortunately we are unable to share as this is best practice with a number of facilities. Perhaps if you reach out to AHIMA or Mahima they would have members willing to share.

          All the best,


  2. I am a new HID Manager and wanted to see if anyone can share their process with me in regards to receiving paper medical records on a patient who anticipated scheduling with the office, however has yet to do so?

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