Reducing Costs for Scanning Medical Records

It is now an established fact that scanning medical records into PDF files is a bare necessity for integrating conventionally-saved PHI (as physical files) into a chosen EMR software. Scanning costs can be reduced, without compromising the quality of scanned data, in many ways:

Purged Documents — before the documents are submitted for scanning, it makes sense in removing the unnecessary pages. Here, the definition of unnecessary varies according to the preferences of each healthcare practice. For some, this may pertain to documents that are not of immediate importance. Many practitioners who are new to adopting EHR are using a selective procedure where only the new patient information is being scanned. The rest is left as paper records and is scanned only when the requirement arises.

This solves two purposes — the immediate costs of scanning documents is reduced and there is more time available to make selections as to which of the remaining paper records are needed for future use. Ultimately, it results in substantial cost savings by reducing the scanning volume. This does create one small issue — the physician’s office should have competent personnel who are adept at filtering through the medical records and marking-out what can be deemed as useful. This is also called as Partial Scanning wherein, gradually a database of only relevant medical information is built-up in the form of scanned images and the rest is sorted out over a period.

Many practices insist upon using a Patient Summary Page. This page provides all the basic information that is needed for fixing patient consultations. Scanning just the patient summary pages into the EMR means reduced volume and quicker scanning turnaround.
Does this compromises the comprehensiveness of PHI — No, this mechanism is used for selective patients who are only seeking a precautionary opinion or just want to list the concerned physician as the new referring physician. If the need arises, more information can be pulled out from the paper records and integrated in the form of scanned images.

Automated, Smarter Processes — another option is to get various documents scanned into a single file. Many softwares can do this easily and are available with scanning service providers too. In this way, multiple documents are scanned into one PDF file, wherein the same order as that of the paper charts is maintained. This is particularly recommended when various documents pertaining to a single patient have been archived chronologically. Small sub-processes can be manipulated such as making the OCR sensitive to help search for such PDF files through a perceptive keyword search. It should be understood that merged PDF doesn’t mean static PDF applications. The merged PDF file provides the same functionalities as a conventional PDF file.

Similarly, Book-marking helps to browse through the PDF files quickly, saving upon critical volumes of daily energy costs. Merging selective files also helps to regulate the volume of file folders. Such simple but effective methods of organizing and compiling patient data ensures that you spend lesser time on searching for data and more on attending patients, i.e. a direct contribution towards lesser spending and more revenue generation on a daily basis.

Speeding-up Scanning — it is advisable to use a lower scanning resolution of about 200 dpi. This resolution needs lesser power and is adequate to scan conventional paper charts. Another useful preference could be getting documents scanned in Black & White. Scanned images in grayscale are much cheaper that colored images. B&W files are also easier to save and manipulate within the chosen EMR system. Using B&W files means accelerating small but time-consuming processes such as writing to CD/DVD or uploading the scanned files into the EMR.

In-house Document Preparation — preparation of documents earmarked for scanning within the healthcare facility and outsourcing the actual scanning is another way of making the entire process faster and cheaper. Document preparation for scanning usually means removal of clips, fasteners, staples and post-its. This is needed to prepare the pages for being fed into the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF). Sometimes, document preparation could also mean the insertion of bar code separator sheets. Preparing the documents is also called prepping the files. This ensures that all the messages/notes that are part of the physical file are presented in a suitable manner for being scanned methodically and incorporated seamlessly in the digital format. Bar-coded cover sheets are needed to identify the Index Data that is needed when filtering for information within the EMR software. However, in-house document preparation is effective as long as you can train the current staff into handling it. It has been estimated that preparing the documents within the facility before sending them for scanning is effective enough to save nearly 40% in total costs for the conversion of paper records into the EMR format.

1. Why using professional scanning services make sense? However, document preparation should be not be extended to scanning within the facility itself. It should be understood that the process of scanning medical information doesn't end at just feeding the documents into the scanner. The newly-scanned data has to undergo a critical quality control phase. This is where the utility of experienced professionals comes to the fore — they are able to segregate the portions that need re-scanning and can identify unwanted deletion or merging of data. These vendors are qualified professionals who can enhance the quality of scanned images without re-scanning all of them which is a direct cost saving. Quality control measures followed at professional scanning centers ensure that benchmarks for readability and proper indexing of PHI are maintained. Only properly scanned and assembled data, combined with precise index validation can qualify for being incorporated into the EMR software.

2. The Recommended Solution — combining in-house facilities with a professional scanning solutions provider is perhaps the best method of converting physically-stored PHI into the digital format. Costs that would be incurred in training the employed clinical staff or hiring new professionals to provide these services at the clinic itself would be considerable. Further, hiring a scanning service provider means that as a client, the facility or the healthcare provider has the freedom to choose the most affordable package and customize it as per personal preferences or organizational requirements.