The first step with EMR data conversion is to convert paper data to electronic format and get it into the EMR or other medical data management system. The goal should be to eventually get all of the older healthcare records imaged and put into the system, but it makes the most sense to work on current and most recent records first.
EMR data conversion can be accomplished in a couple of ways. One approach is to convert from paper to electronic format in-house, with the provider’s own labor and equipment for scanning. The advantage of this is that eventually, when all of the older records are imaged and migrated to the data management system, it is easy to absorb new documentation into the system as it is created. The disadvantage is obvious – the cost of operating this type of business process – something far removed from the core business. In particular, it may be difficult to get ‘caught up’ with the older records without significant investment in labor.
The alternative is to find a data conversion provider to outsource the scanning and, if necessary, data entry work. Keep in mind that given the current regulatory requirements, this must be a qualified HIPAA business associate for handling PHI. A company that can easily handle EMR data conversion will be specialists in document scanning and data entry.
It is quite possible to never have to invest heavily in equipment and labor related to your medical records by going this route. Do you have multiple years of patient records stuck in files and bankers boxes? Outsource the imaging, have the converted files delivered and then migrated into your system. Leave the heavy lifting of conversion to them and then just keep on top of it from there. Even newly created paper documents can be sent out for conversion, although ideally it would be best to have staff trained and with enough time on their hands to handle newly generated paper-based records.
If you already have an EMR system, it is likely that there is at least one staff member that is proficient at working with it. If not, it might be a good idea to make this happen as they can then handle the migration of newly converted data into the system as it comes in and can handle the manual data entry work needed for certain types of data.
Once converting paper records to digital, and loading them into an EMR, how long do providers keep their old paper charts?
Each state is somewhat different, but in general, if information is the same but the medium has changed (paper to electronic) – along with keeping appropriate backups of the scanned records, the original paper records no longer need to be kept. Get rid of them. The more questionable area is what to do with the electronic medical records. This is much more unclear and at some point, providers will start wondering what to do as their EMR data continues to grow. A cloud storage solution might be an answer for covering all of your bases.
Coleman Data Solutions is a complete data and document management company. We’ve converted millions of different types of paper records to electronic format, including complete medical practice patient records, and are a US based provider of data entry services. We also offer secure document destruction, once your healthcare records are in a digital format and backed up properly with multiple copies. We are a HIPAA compliant business associate. Call or use the contact us button to write for more information.