The Problem with Paper Medical & Healthcare Records

Shelves filled with colorfully labeled medical files

If you’re worried that digital transformation might be too big of an undertaking for your medical practice, you might be mistaken. Inconsistencies between electronic and paper medical records can lead to severe problems for patient intake and treatment. It is essential for modern-day medical practices to combine their paper and digital records whenever possible!

If you’re still on the fence about transitioning to digital medical records, there might be more negative side effects associated with physical file management that could harm you in the long run.

Here are some issues associated with paper medical records, the benefits of scanning them into digital files, and tips for converting your practice’s healthcare database.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 was the first act passed in the United States to require healthcare providers to implement centralized, electronic internal databases and record systems. 11 years later, medical facilities are still trying to navigate the tricky moves associated with digital transformation.

The ARRA required the transition from strictly paper medical records to digital files, allowing patients of doctors, nurses, and hospitals, to easily access their health records. By now, medical organization leaders have concluded that there are more problems than benefits of using paper-based records, so what’s the hold up with implementing these programs?

Paper vs Electronic Medical Record Keeping

Before you can evaluate paper vs. electronic medical record-keeping, you’ll need to understand what exactly a medical record is and how it is used.

Medical records are a combination of self-reported patient data and clinical diagnostic notes. Traditional medical records are stored on paper-based mediums, but digital transformation seeks to change that.

When scanned images of paper medical records are combined with an electronic healthcare record (EHR) keeping system, your practice can benefit from a completely customized document management program.

The primary differences between paper and electronic medical records include:

  • Associated Risk: Electronic health records (EHR) are more secure than paper records ever could be. They can’t be physically destroyed by a fire or other unexpected disaster.
  • Accountability: You cannot prove who has or hasn’t seen a paper document (unless they leave their fingerprints on it!) Electronic records keep running logs to track who’s recommended diagnoses or provided treatments.
  • Formats: Paper records can come in all shapes and sizes. Electronic health records are customized and formatted to improve legibility and data accuracy, by standardizing human inputs.

Electronic Healthcare Record Systems Take Time

Most reputable medical practices implement an information governance program to guide the maintenance and retention of documents. Transitioning documents under the care of a retention policy into an electronic healthcare record (EHR) system takes time.

With hundreds and thousands of pages of patient records, organizations need to ensure that all information is as current as possible. Many organizations will need to use document indexing and redaction to accurately capture backlogs of information.

Even though document imaging and digital healthcare transformation seem to be the answer to providing timely diagnosis and treatments to patients, the field is only getting started! The longer healthcare professionals put off digitization, the more technological advancements and historical files they’ll need to evaluate as time goes on.

Challenges Healthcare Providers Face With Paper-Based Patient Records

Is your practice still using paper-based patient and medical records? If you’re a healthcare provider, using paper records may be slowing down your care delivery model.

In the medical industry, that could be the difference between life and death. 

If you face any of the challenges below, digital transformation and an EHR system might be the key to streamlining the patient flow and improving productivity within your practice.

High Operation Costs

Off-site storage, office employees for file management, and the price of paper can make the cost of operating your practice, exorbitantly high. EHR systems assist with cutting costs associated with physical documents.

When EHR systems are integrated with Cloud Storage, all these burdens can be eased. Files are retrieved almost instantly. Medical records are compactly stored, made searchable, and accessible from anywhere, with the right credentials.

Miscommunication During Patient Treatment & Screenings

Paper-based health records will always pose a significant problem for healthcare portability. Miscommunication during treatment and screenings for patients with chronic diseases, large treatment records, or simply out-of-state residencies, can complicate the relay of information between a patient’s service providers.

If you find yourself printing, mailing, or faxing, histories and test results to patients or their other providers, you may be delaying quick treatment and diagnosis. Digitizing medical correspondences can help you deliver essential information as soon as a patient needs it.

Instant transfer of documents and adaptation into your monitor record system can prevent miscommunication. With EHR systems your practice’s mailing operations can be scanned and instantly delivered, cutting out your mailroom entirely!

File Clarity & Legibility

The stereotype about doctors having illegible handwriting exists for a reason. Sometimes handwriting can pose a problem for paper medical records, especially when someone else has to decipher it.

Sometimes you run out of space and have to squeeze information into margins. It happens.

Electronic health records give you the tools to document all medical encounters in a neat and legible manner.

There’s no handwriting involved! Some systems will even integrate with voice-to-text software.

HIPAA Compliance & Security Risks

The present-day healthcare industry often can be a victim to internal and external data breach attacks. With the frequency of healthcare data breaches on the rise, medical practices need to ensure that they maintain HIPAA compliance and address any security risks.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires organizations handling medical and health records to prevent unauthorized disclosures of protected health information (PHI).

Unauthorized internal disclosures of paper documents happen frequently. The magnitude of the value behind exposed paper healthcare data can be devastating for your clients and your practice’s finances.

Electronic health care records use document access controls to limit who can see confidential data. Access controls leave a paper trail making audits easier and faster than ever before.

Benefits of EHR Systems

Using an EHR system gives you much better control over your document security. Here are some benefits to using electronic records as a more secure option than paper records:

  • Improved patient care
  • Increased practice efficiency
  • Authorized document access
  • Standardized formats
  • Easier audits

Paper Records Don’t Follow Patients

Digital transformation is now the center of patient-focused healthcare approaches. Paper records don’t follow patients and are simply too insecure to use on their own.

The rise of Telehealth and EHR allows health care providers and institutions to provide streamlined operations to their patients. A practical and customizable document management solution can help streamline the administrative workflows in your practice.

Electronic Health Records Follow the Patient

Switching to electronic health records delivers more safety and security to your patient’s personal healthcare data. Request a free sample scan from Didlake Imaging to learn how document imaging can help reduce errors and increase productivity in your practice.