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3 Challenges of Paper Records

by Kristin Logan | Jul 07, 2015

Behavioral Health Paper Records Despite government incentives, reported productivity gains, improved quality of care, many health practices are still mired in paper documents, avoiding the switch to electronic client records. Even more are caught somewhere between the promised land of paperless efficiency and the known territories of traditional, paper-based operations.

These practices are facing a number of challenges by relying on paper documents –regardless of whether  their practice is a hybrid of some paper documents and some electronic records, or solely paper-reliant. These challenges can be broken down into accessibility, productivity and security.

Challenge #1: Accessibility
The volume of files needed on site – and the amount of documents within those files – take up space quickly.  Staff can experience difficulty in locating records, sorting documents and identifying key pieces of information.  Needless to say, that when access is not optimized, the clinical staff’s ability to render services in a timely manner is inhibited. This results in lower quality of patient care, burdened staff and overlooked information. To make matters worse, paper records can only be in one place at a time, meaning they are not always accessible to the person who needs them.

Challenge #2: Productivity
Naturally, with more limited access to patient files comes a reduction in productivity. Oftentimes, departments that could act in unison – such as administration and billing – are forced to “take turns”. What we also see in environments that use paper client files with electronic medical records is an increase in workload. Matching patient information with electronic health records or patient management systems becomes more cumbersome, requiring document scanning (often on scanners not designed for high-speed, high-volume scanning), manual data entry and other unnecessary processes.

Challenge #3 Security
Practices avoiding a complete transition to electronic client files often do so with the belief that an electronic system is more of a security threat. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights website, over the last 12 months 258 breaches have been reported. 71 of those were paper or film-based records. Compare that to just 16 electronic records. Of the two, paper is the clear loser when it comes to privacy and security.

In addition, it is nearly impossible to accurately account for each person who accesses a paper-based file and audit their use of that record. This means individuals can access records without permission and make copies of documents without anyone knowing.

These are just some of the challenges that are presented to practices relying on paper-based client files and/or medical records. Understanding these roadblocks is an important step towards reducing labor costs and improving quality of care for your patients, while keeping your records secure and accessible. 

Milner Technologies specializes in providing behavioral healthcare practices with client record management solutions that integrate with leading client management platforms. Our solutions help practices operate more efficiently and dramatically improve their quality of care. Contact us for a free demo