Record Patience

If you have implemented an electronic medical record system (EMR) for your practice you face new opportunities and decisions. No doubt you still have paper files, so you need to decide whether to scan them into the EMR. Scanning will enable you to get rid of the old folders, but chances are you will not be able to perform searches on the text like you probably can with digital records. It might make more sense to scan records of active patients while leaving those of discharged patients as paper. I recently started shredding all records that are 10 or more years old. 

I keep my digital files in several “places” in addition to my cloud-based EMR. When I discharge a patient I archive the files in the EMR.

Think about what might happen to patient records when you close your practice. A colleague tells me that my state’s laws require that I provide copies of charts for at least one year after closing the practice. I will want to keep them for at least three years in case of need to defend my actions in a malpractice suit. Scanning all the remaining paper when I close the practice might enable me to avoid the cost and liability of keeping cabinets full of paper files. It also means that at some point in time patients wanting their records can bypass me entirely, instead requesting copies directly from the EMR.

Why copy or transmit records at all? Perhaps future cloud-based EMRs will allow providers and patients direct read-only access. 

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