In-house vs. Outsourced Medical Records Scanning
Written by: Ruth Gooda
Publish Date: Sep 12, 2019
Read time: 8 minutes
Whilst many industries have realised the benefits of digitising records and documents, healthcare organisations in both the UK and the US are still slow in making the transition. This is often due to the belief that scanning medical records and documents is too large an investment to justify, or too much of a risk.
Read the article to learn more about the options for digitising your medical records.
The volume of medical records that healthcare organisations process has increased tenfold in the last five years. When you consider the amount of resource required to manage paper medical records, not only do the records take up valuable space that could be better used for clinical purposes, but they also present a number of Data Protection and Compliance challenges. Just consider the costs and risks:
- The increasing volume of paper drives the cost of paper handling higher with the ongoing investment in paper, printers, photocopiers and ink cartridges.
- Paper medical records can easily be damaged by fire, flooding or simply human error.
- The movement of the paper medical records are usually uncontrolled and can go missing. Information is regularly misfiled.
- An on-site storage solution is a poor use of real estate. Many of these areas are not fit for purpose and insecure.
- Storage and processing of paper-based documents requires a dedicated workforce.
It is time for healthcare organisations to begin making the transition from paper to digital. Digitising medical records can dramatically reduce costs, while simultaneously making your patients' medical data more secure, reducing clinical risk and improving patient care.
Additionally, there are other drivers that impact this decision. For instance, in the UK, ‘Paperless 2024’ is an opportunity to transform health and social care by offering everyone from administration and care professionals to patients, better use of data and technology. In the US, the impact of electronic medical records is still undergoing a debate - but according to statistics from 2004 - 2014, saw a steady increase in more doctors using electronic medical records and is a continuing upward trend.
When done well, making the switch from paper-based to digital medical records can be a painless process that quickly pays for itself.
What are the options for digitising your medical records?
There are two ways that healthcare organisations can choose to digitise their medical records - you can decide to do it in-house or you can choose to outsource it to a professional document scanning and management company.
1. In-house medical records scanning
Firstly, do you have the capability to scan a high volume of medical records and documents in-house?
"Whilst in-house would seem like the quickest route to digitisation, to do this properly you will need quality scanners, dedicated staff, project managers, technical training, space for workstations, quality assurance procedures, servers and printers, plus the specialised software to make it all work."
The majority of healthcare organisations will have a vast number of active and legacy medical records. To be able to manage the scanning of these medical records in-house you need to consider the following:
- Do you have the right scanning equipment? Standard office-based scanners will not be able to cope with a high volume of records. You will need to invest in scanners that are fit for purpose, bearing in mind that they will become obsolete over time. Whatever scanner you choose is unlikely to be able to scan all the various types of documents found in a typical medical record, such as ECG’s, large format charts etc.
- Do you have the resources? Even if you do have the right type of scanner do you actually have enough resource in-house to be able to undertake the work and meet the deadlines expected by your clinicians. You will need to factor in start-up training as well as ongoing training as new systems or new staff members are added.
- What are your indexing requirements? Digitising documents doesn’t just mean scanning them into a system. You need to consider how you plan to search and retrieve records going forward and this might require a degree of manual indexing. Therefore, depending on how complicated your indexing procedure needs to be, this could slow the process down substantially and create a backlog of records to scan.
- What are the deadlines for documents to be scanned? If documents need to be digitised in time for an upcoming clinic appointment, or your organisation just wants a fast turnaround, you might not be able to meet your deadline if your in-house capacity is limited. Experience shows us that healthcare organisations are regularly unable to keep up with the demand of 'day-forward scanning' and often fall behind, which means the digital medical records are not available when they are needed.
- Is your organisation BS10008 Legal Admissibility compliant? BS10008 has a wider mandate than the scanning service in that it encompasses admissibility of all forms of digital content. In terms of BS10008:2014 health organisations are the ‘corporate body’ and are required to align their Information Management and Information Security Policies to the recommendations of BS10008:2014. Very few healthcare organisations are compliant.
"Too often the task of scanning records is often given to juniors, interns or temps, which can increase the risk of errors and may result in anything from lawsuits, and privacy breaches under current Data Protection legislation".
2. Outsourced medical records scanning
Your other option is to outsource medical records scanning to professionals, who have the knowledge, experience and skills to undertake large-scale projects. Outsourcing is usually recommended for large-scale digitisation projects and is generally faster and more affordable than trying to do it in-house.
It is important to select an outsourcing company who understands the healthcare sector and all the compliance and regulatory nuances that really matter to your organisation.
”Outsourcing” may sound like a risk, in that you will be handing over important and private medical records in order to digitise, however, your organisation can gain some much-needed value and benefits:
- You will get best practice for medical records scanning - Your documents will be scanned by skilled professionals with proven processes in place that are designed to maximise image quality and data accuracy. Document preparation requires experienced personnel to ensure documents are processed by people who understand the documents they are handling.
- Using a supplier who has access to top-of-the-range equipment - Meaning they will be capable of scanning various types of documents using high speed, flatbed, and large format scanners.
- Reduced costs compared to scanning documents in-house - When you take into account all the costs associated with scanning in-house, including staff costs, maintenance of scanning machinery, slower processing times, manual indexing and software investment you will soon see that outsourcing is a more cost effective option.
- Increased security for both your physical and digital records – Select a supplier who will collect your medical records directly and securely from your premises. Choose a supplier who will also provide the tools to allow you to track your information at all times to individual patient file level.
- True representation of the original documents – Medical records scanned accurately under controlled processes will ensure that no information is missed and strict quality control checks are followed. This will further ensure that all your regulatory and compliance requirements in regards to privacy, data protection and security are met.
- Easier to plan and budget – your organisation will be paying for a cost per image which makes it easier to forecast the costs of a project and ongoing scanning.
"When you consider the risk of errors and privacy breaches, it’s no wonder that many healthcare organisations are increasingly making the informed decision to outsource their scanning needs to third parties"
This is because their processes are compliant with current legislation - essential to offer reassurance and peace of mind to organisations in the healthcare industry. By contracting the job to professionals, you will reduce both clinical and data protection risks.
Scanning medical records can feel like an overwhelming and huge undertaking and it should not be underestimated, but document scanning can help you deal with the rapidly increasing burden of maintaining a paper archive.
"By outsourcing you are handing over a huge administrative task to professionals".
Outsourcing your document scanning saves capital investment and staffing costs. Choosing a scanning partner with state-of-the-art production equipment and software, managed by well trained and experienced staff, will give you greater consistency, less stress and a more cost effective option for document digitisation than most in-house operations are capable of.
You will be free to focus on delivering the very best patient care with the added benefits of working from digitised documents!
Want to learn more about how scanning your medical records can benefit your healthcare organisation? Request a free consultation call with Ruth Gooda to find out more.