Should Healthcare Facilities Scan Old Records to EHR?


Physicians and doctors’ offices today are busier than ever. An article from The Washington Post cited a study from a 2012 article in the Annals of Family Medicine that noted the average primary-care physician has about 2,300 patients under his or her care. And more than actually caring for physicians is the work related to patient records.

While most healthcare practitioners today use electronic health records (EHRs) for current patients, a big question now relates to historic records that must be retained in order to meet HIPAA requirements.

That typically leaves healthcare facilities with three options: scan all records into EHR, continue to store healthcare records in physical format, or partner with a company to create a customized, hybrid solution. We examine the pros and cons of all three approaches.

Option 1: Scanning All Medical Records Into EHR


Records reside in one single place – The obvious pro of scanning all records into the EHR is that all records are stored in the same format using the same system. This cuts down on physical clutter and also simplifies the records process.

Physical space is used more efficiently – If physical records are stored onsite, it is not the most efficient use of office space. If space was freed up from removing physical records, that space can be used for revenue generating purposes such as seeing patients instead of simply storing records.

It removes the crutch of physical records – Many times keeping records onsite prevents staff from fully committing to electronic records, choosing instead to continue producing paper for current patients. By removing all physical records from the premise, it forces adoption of the EHR.


Scanning all records is extremely labor intensive – Scanning is an extremely labor-intensive process, which translates to an extremely expensive process. And quality is a must; therefore, any facility that chooses to scan all records must have proper quality controls put into place before embarking on a scan job.

Scanning all records typically is not necessary – Digital clutter, even not in physical form, is still clutter. In order to truly solve the problem, scanned files must be indexed, organized, and disposed of in due course.  

Bottom line: expensive and labor-intensive but has advantages when implemented correctly.

Option 2: Storing Physical Records Offsite


Office space can be used more efficiently – Similar to the solution to scan all the records, if physical records are removed from the office, it can free that space to be better utilized. used for it is not the most efficient use of office space. Space formerly used to store records can be converted into offices or desks for staff or rooms to see patients, creating additional revenue.

It removes the crutch of physical records – Many times keeping records onsite prevents staff from fully committing to electronic records, choosing instead to continue producing paper for current patients. By removing all physical records from the premise, it forces adoption of the EHR.


Storage typically isn’t the problem – Many times healthcare facilities think they have a storage problem (where to put physical records) when really it is a management problem. If records are just moved offsite, the problem isn’t truly solved; it is simply relocated.

Certain storage companies have no incentive to destroy documents – Depending on the offsite storage solution you choose, you may end up paying for records storage indefinitely, even after records are eligible for destruction. Without active management of retention dates, you end up paying for keeping records that are no longer needed and that could become a liability if kept past retention and become discoverable.

Bottom line – Moving records offsite only deals with the issue at a surface level without truly addressing the problem.

Option 3: Hybrid Approach


The underlying problem is addressed – With a hybrid approach, you will truly understand what records you have. At SRS, we call this indexing. Our team comes onsite and packs up the records you, sorts them at the file level based on their retention requirement so each box has the same requirement, and inventory them at the file level with 3 indices to optimize search capabilities, then applies your retention policy to automate destruction of records that are eligible, and to tell you how long the remaining records must be kept.

The hybrid approach will save you money – The savings compared to scanning everything are obvious – typically this approach is a fraction of the cost of scanning. While storage without indexing may seem cheaper on the surface, if files are not being destroyed, that cost will remain fixed indefinitely. At SRS, we typically find that 30-40% of a client’s records are immediately eligible for destruction, saving them the cost of storing or scanning records they’ll never need. Furthermore, as records become eligible for destruction, we notify them and handle the shredding. As storage volume is reduced, the cost goes down until it eventually is $0.


This approach will require you to think differently – The SRS hybrid approach to document management is unique. As such, it will require a different way of thinking to solve this problem. Many people think that “scan everything” or “move if offsite” is the easy answer, but neither truly solves the problem, which may mean continued process problems down the road, including difficulty adopting EMR.

If you are interested in learning more about our unique, hybrid approach to document management, contact SRS today.


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