Implementation of an EHR technology at a facility usually begins with deciding on what to do with the old paper records and how they should be transferred into the EHR system.

The processes of converting paper records into an electronic format vary from user to user, however, it is unanimously admitted to be a time consuming as well as costly exercise (especially the process of scanning each record).  Depending on the size of the practice, the entire conversion can take several months.

There are three primary options available for feeding the old records into your new EHR system –

Option 1: Scan all the documents.

There are a several advantages of choosing this option –

(a)    All your records are converted to an electronic format.

(b)   Old paper records can either be destroyed (state laws governing the destruction of medical records differ from state to state) OR they can be securely stored at an offsite location.

However, there are some disadvantages as well –

(a)    The scanned images are in a PDF format and cannot be easily searched for to locate specific information.

(b)   Once the records are now in an electronic format, the scanned images still have to be sorted and saved in appropriate sections of the EHR system.

(c)    The process is costly as compared to manually feeding the data into the system.

Option 2: Scan only the critical documents and keep the remaining information on paper records.

This option has all the advantages of option (a) but doesn’t completely eliminate the need for paper records and physicians still have to refer to the paper records for data that’s not available in electronic form.

Option 3: Manually feed in all/part of the data from paper records into the system.

This method is on average the most favorable since the data entered into the EHR system is easily navigable and can be quickly searched for key information.

While there may still be some scanning required for feeding in images and scans, a non-medical staff-member or a part-time data-entry specialist can be employed to feed the bulk of records into the EHR system since no specific medical knowledge is required for this task.

It’s an advantage if physicians enter the data themselves because they get to take a fresh look at patient history in the process; the data is bound to be more accurate too. There’s no doubt that this can take up a lot of time (and it’s not a revenue generating activity) – but if you can manage the task in small chunks over a period of time, it canturn out to be beneficial in the long run.

In conclusion, any option you choose will involve an investment of both  time and money. But considering that you’ll need to repeatedly access and update hundreds of patient records every year, switching to electronic records will definitely boost the quality and productivity of your practice over the years to come.