To Scan or Not to Scan – That is the Question

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At latest count, more than 80 percent of hospitals eligible for meaningful use incentives have implemented an EHR according to 2013 CMS data. Similarly, 74 percent of physician practices are now electronic. Yet paper still exists in healthcare.

Steve Eddington, RHIA Director of Disclosure Management

Steve Eddington, RHIA Director of Disclosure Management

Some organizations have only a small amount of paper—others have a lot. Given the pervasiveness of paper, healthcare facilities must decide how to integrate paper-based information into electronic systems. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer. But there are four key questions to review before making a decision.

  • What percentage of our current patient charts are still paper? What documents does this include?
  • How often are these paper documents accessed and by whom?
  • Should we scan the paper portions of our current chart?
  • What is the cost of scanning vs. the cost of storage?
    • Labor – can current staff handle scanning workload or is outsourcing an option?
    • Hardware – what is the cost of the scanners?  What is the cost of maintenance?  How many scanners do I need?
    • Offsite storage – what is the cost of boxes? Pick-up fees? Monthly storage fees?
    • Destruction – what is the cost of destruction?  Many decide not to make this a factor because the records will be destroyed eventually whether they are scanned or not.
    • What are the current organizational workflows and physicians’ dependence on these paper portions of the record?

If you have made the decision to scan there are a few additional questions to consider:

  • Should the entire paper record be scanned or just these specific documents?
  • Should I scan all patient records from A-Z or should I only scan records based on upcoming admissions / appointments?
  • How should the documents be indexed?
    • By document
    • By date
    • All records scanned in together

Your answers to these questions will help guide your hospital toward the best decision for your organization’s unique information management needs.

Curves Ahead

Finally, remember to allow for growing pains and learning curves as staff transition toward using electronic, online medical records; giving up their paper. Budget extra time and perhaps back-up labor within HIM during this conversion so that internal staff can learn the new processes and adapt to a completely paperless environment.

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