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Medical Records: 6 Tips to Convert Paper to Digital

SyberScribe AUTHOR: SyberScribe, June 5th, 2019

Want to reduce your paper medical records and start implementing electronic records? Electronic medical records provide many benefits, such as real-time data, safety alerts, and offering patients better, immediate access to care. They also provide cost savings, convenience, and increased efficiency for healthcare organisations.

For a smooth and successful transition, here are some tips on converting paper medical records to a digital database.

The new standards in medical records

Using electronic medical records (EMRs) is becoming standard practice for many healthcare organisations today, including hospitals and medical practices.

When creating EMRs, they must be filled out to the proper standards. This includes ensuring that EMRs match paper records perfectly. For both records to be fully merged, all information contained in the paper records, no matter how insignificant, should be included in the EMRs.

It’s also important that there are no errors in scanning or data entry, as it could result in incomplete, missing, or incorrect patient information. This can lead to safety and privacy concerns for the patient and the clinic.

Additionally, you can only use EMRs and disregard your paper records if the EMR matches the paper records perfectly. If you only scan specific parts of the paper record into the EMR, you’ll have to keep the paper record to ensure a certain level of quality control. You’ll also have to check your EMRs for any errors before destroying your paper records.

How to transition from paper to digital

Here are six steps to transitioning from paper medical records to digital medical records:

1. Plan ahead

You should plan ahead to ensure the transition process goes smoothly. First, consider how much you can afford to transition to a digital record system, eg look at the costs for related hardware, software, and services. This may include buying new computers, tablets or scanners, and hiring or outsourcing companies that offer conversion services. Also, think about whether you’ll convert all or only some of your paper medical records – from registration through to billing – to EMRs.

2. Consider what to convert to digital

There are many paper medical records you can choose to convert to digital formats, such as:

  • Intake forms for new patients.
  • Notes from the last few visits for established patients.
  • Patient registration and contact details, eg name, address, phone number, occupation, and insurance information.
  • Billing information for tracking reimbursements and revenue.
  • Calendar information for creating chart notes and billing messages from patient check-in, managing patient visits, and scheduling appointments.
  • Patient charts that summarise a patient’s diagnosis (lab tests and results), medications, symptoms, allergies, and medical history.
  • A patient’s first or last comprehensive exam.
  • A patient’s last couple of specialty exams, e.g. visual field tests or optic nerve imaging tests.

3. Train your staff

You should involve all your staff members in the transition process to minimise any resistance that may spring up during implementation. Train your staff to be mentally ready to use EMRs, such as envisioning the computer or a tablet as the new clipboard and to only record on paper if the EMR or Internet goes offline. Also, teach your staff on how to use scanners when converting paper records to digital records.

4. Take as much time as you need

To properly implement your EMR system, you need time, patience, and the ability to pay attention to detail. Doing it right the first time can help ensure success. But to make sure your transition is as fast as possible, consider setting a timeframe for the transition period, like up to a month, and stick to it.

Don’t expect everyone to memorise everything about the system at the start; just ensure that they understand all the basic functions of the system and then let them learn the rest of the features gradually. During the first two weeks of implementation, consider decreasing your patient load by 25% to reduce pressure on both your staff and patients.

During the transition process, you may need to:

  • Create a list of active, semi-active, and active patients and mark records to be or not to be scanned.
  • Mark important information to scan first if you won’t be scanning the whole document.
  • Assign days and times for staff to scan the records, or to start the hiring or outsourcing process.
  • Scan older records after new records have been scanned.
  • Check that the scanned records are accurate and make edits if necessary.

5. Hire or outsource a company that offers conversion services

If you have a lot of paper medical records to scan in and you plan on scanning all of them, you may want to hire a company to come onsite and scan your paper records for you. You could also send your paper records to a third party company that scans and uploads documents to the cloud.

On the other hand, you can consider using voice recordings and medical transcription to convert your paper records to digital records. You could get a staff member or hire temporary staff to read out the files using a digital recorder and then send them to a medical transcription service provider who’ll turn the voice-recorded medical reports into electronic text.

The option you choose will ultimately depend on your budget and timeframe.

6. Decide what to do with your paper records

You should also plan for the disposal or storage of your paper medical records. If you decide to convert all of them into electronic records and they’ve been recorded accurately, then you’ll no longer need them. But if you only scan some paper records or only certain parts of the record into the EMR system, you’ll need to retain them for quality control. You should shred any paper record you won’t keep and store those you’ll keep in a filing system. You can also consider moving old or less important paper records to offsite storage.

Switch from paper to digital with SyberScribe

Once you’ve converted your paper medical records to a digital database, you can deliver better healthcare for your patients and grow your practice further. So are you ready to make the switch from paper to digital in your healthcare organisation?

SyberScribe’s state-of-the-art medical transcription service can turn your voice-recorded reports into electronic reports. You can use a digital recorder and an Internet-connected PC to access our hosted dictation and transcription platform and our transcriptionists will then turn your reports around in a timely manner and file them securely back into your management system. Contact us to find out more about our medical transcription services.