Paper records will be with us for a long time. When the call to “go paperless” makes its way into your practice, the issue of what to do with your paper records will come up. When it does, there are a few points you may wish to consider. Whether or not you’re making the move to Electronic Medical Records (EMR), the points remain the same for most physician offices. The health community faces rigorous compliance demands and obligations for continuity planning.
At RSRS, we’ve been in the business of medical records management, assisting physicians, clinics and hospitals for nearly 14 years. We’ve learned a few tricks along the way and we’ve helped countless physicians with their scanning and storage requirements. We offer the following recommendations based on our experience helping many others in similar situations.
1. Separate the ACTIVE from the INACTIVE
For a general practice, we define ACTIVE as those patients last seen within the last 2 years (this will vary for specialty practices and will also vary somewhat for some general practices). INACTIVE RECORDS are defined as those records belonging to patients last seen 3 or more years ago. For those records, the clock has already started ticking with respect to date of destruction (10 or 15 years after the date last seen, unless you’re a pediatrician or have a lot of pediatric records). This is not true for active records.
2. Scan the ACTIVE records.
Outsource this job. We recommend scanning the entire active record. This does not mean that the entire active record must be placed into your EMR system (if you have one, or are moving into one). It simply means that you should aim to have all paper corresponding to your active patients scanned and readily available and accessible on your computer. It all must be kept for the same amount of time anyway. And by having the entire active paper record scanned for a given patient, you are ensuring the following:
• Instantaneous access to the entire record (3 seconds to find a file)
• Easy reference to historical trends and early indicators for a given patient
• Easy facilitation of response to Requests for information (Insurance, legal, etc.)
• No misplaced files and no filing errors
• No more requirement for paper files or boxes to clutter up the office or take up valuable space in the office which can be used for more productive purposes
3. Store the INACTIVE patient records.
Since the “countdown to destruction” clock has already started on these INACTIVE records, we recommend storing these records by “year last seen.” RSRS’ storage facility will pick up the inactive record boxes, barcode them, put them into storage and make files available to you with expedited delivery for those sporadic requests that may come about in the future. Our SCAN ON DEMAND service will get you any record that needs to be reactivated and we’ll deliver it electronically to you via secure FTP – no need to add paper, so you can maintain your electronic status. Note: Both RSRS and the CMPA do not recommend keeping a patient record partially stored as paper and partially scanned. For more information on Best Practices for Canadian physicians in transition to EMR, here’s a comprehensive article from the National Review of Medicine .
Everyone wants to work with the best partners available. RSRS has a great professional team to work with. We know that you went to medical school to practice medicine, not to get deeper and deeper into managing paper, especially once you move to an EMR system. We have helped physicians with their records management since 1997. Co-founded by a Toronto family doctor, RSRS works in full compliance with the relevant provincial privacy legislation and local Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons.