The implementation process for a new EMR system can be challenging. It temporarily disrupts workflow operations, takes time to implement, and may even require additional outsourced help. However, one of the biggest challenges to fully implementing an EHR system is converting paper medical records to EMR, or electronic medical records.
How do I convert paper medical records to EMR?
Converting paper medical records to electronic medical records requires scanning the paper records and entering the information in to the EMR system. The actual process for entering information into the EMR system will depend on the EMR. Some software vendor may provide this service with the EMR purchase. Your practice can also hire additional staff to help with the scanning, since your current staff won’t offer enough manpower.
Your practice also has the option of hiring an outside firm to scan the paper medical records. Firms may offer on-site or off-site scanning. If they take the records off-site, be sure to keep important information on-site about each patient, in case of an emergency. Most firms offer on-site scanning services though. If you decide to go with an outside firm, make sure they understand what parts of the files you want to be digitized, what type of information from each file and how many years of information. Also be sure to let them know if you want the data to be entered into the EMR itself and what your timeline is for the conversion.
What should I convert to EMR?
You have two options for what medical record information you want to convert to EMR. You could covert everything in the paper medical record, or you could covert just the information needed.
Converting all information to EMRs
Converting all the information in paper medical records to electronic medical records can make the paper records obsolete, and they can then be stored offsite, saving you office space. This option allows your practice to become completely electronic.
However, converting all paper medical records to EMR is a costly and time-consuming approach. Putting all patient information into an EMR system requires hiring additional staff or outsourcing it. Hiring additional staff can help ease some of the workload, but current trained staff members will have to do the actual filing of the scanned records into each patient’s file. Therefore, it can still be a challenging process for your practice.
Outsourcing is probably the best option for this approach, but comes with its own problems. While most companies offer on-site scanning services, your staff will still have to ensure the records are being filled properly. Additionally, this process could take a lot of time, depending on how many patient files you have to scan, so this service can end up costing quite a bit.
Convert only important information to EMRs
The hybrid approach, converting only information your practice will need, can save you time and effort, but causes your practice to be partially reliant on paper medical records. With this approach, staff members will scan medical records of patients who have scheduled appointments within the next week or two. Your staff only has to scan patient information needed for the appointment, which is determined by the physician. Important information may include notes from the last few visits, medication list, medical history, latest lab tests and results, a problem list, etc. This approach allows the physician to access all the information needed for the patient’s visit through the EMR system and add to the patient’s file electronically.
The next steps would be to use the EMR system for each patient that comes in. New patients will need all information entered in to the EMR system. Established patients with an existing EMR file only need new information on their current visit entered. With this system, physicians will eventually no longer need to consult paper medical records.
This process occurs over a longer period of time, but minimizes the overall amount of work and time spent scanning paper medical records. While it is crucial to capture all the important information into a patient’s EMR file, some information in a patient’s record is unimportant and thus unlikely to be used anyway.
What should I do with the paper records after converting them to EMR?
There are usually individual state laws that determine how long a practice must keep medical records for. Physicians are usually required to keep the original medical record copy for five years or longer. If your EMR can produce full copies of a patient’s medical record, then the paper record is no longer needed. However, it is advised that the EMR system be used for a period of time before getting rid of the original paper copies, to be sure your EMR has stored and backed up all the files, and can exactly replicate original paper versions.