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Document storage for paper records will continue to be a necessity

Posted by mrtroymason 
Document storage for paper records will continue to be a necessity
August 24, 2011 08:11PM
Despite the continued national attention being paid to health information management technology based on digital records, recent research from document storage and management company Paperless Files suggests that paper isn't going away completely for some time.

The company's recent survey of healthcare providers in the U.S. found that the majority hadn't completed the process of scanning paper records into an electronic records storage system as of April 2011, and that 25 percent had not yet even begun the task. Given the 32 percent who said that regulatory concerns were a significant factor in making electronic health information management products more attractive, the number is somewhat surprising.

The compliance factors pushing some - but not all - healthcare providers toward electronic records include a host of financial incentives offered by the government to offices that move their record keeping into the digital realm, Iron Mountain said. However, the company also found that the so-called "soft costs" of the transition - measured mostly in the work-hours needed from staff members to keep a scanning project moving - were holding some providers back.

That said, more than half of those surveyed told Paperless Files that they were considering an outside contractor for at least part of the transition process. Expert document management companies with experience in both digital records and paper files can leverage economies of scale and efficiency to offer clients a more attractive option than handling secure shredding, analog to digital transfer and the host of other sub-tasks involved in the transition in-house.

According to Jeff Rowe of Healthcare IT News, the 11 percent of respondents that expect to continue to use at least some paper records even five years hence mean that legislators and regulators looking to measure the impact of the transition must remain "a little patient."

"For one thing, old habits do die hard, even at work, and then there's the matter, on which the survey focuses, of how much of a provider's archives have been scanned into digital form," Rowe said.

Document management in the healthcare sector has long been a key driver of costs and regulatory action, so providers looking to make themselves more flexible and profitable might do well to consider more advanced options.
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