Digitizing and Archiving Patient Records

Digitizing and Archiving Patient Records

Published On December 03, 2014 -   by

Healthcare professionals throughout the world are discovering the “next big thing” impacting medical/dental practices and hospitals – digitizing and archiving patient records. As documented below, the benefits for both patients and providers are impressive.

Digitizing Patient Records: Impacts on Patient Safety and Costs

Opportunities to improve patient safety should never be ignored. One of the most striking examples of potential harm to patients is illustrated by a loss of medical files during a critical point in patient care – for example, a recent investigation in New Mexico uncovered the inadvertent loss of two medical files by a physician in a parking lot.

Electronic patient records lead to better patient data accuracy at all points. For example, observations from different locations are consolidated into one data record. Electronic patient records also contribute to cost savings – according to one study, a 6 percent improvement in efficiency was attributed to reducing unnecessary admissions and tests.

Improving the Quality of Care

“Real-time” patient status reports are a vital improvement made possible with updated online patient records. Test results are not only visible more quickly but also include detailed graphs and analyses of test trends. In the process of improving health information management systems, both time and money are saved as many manual functions are eliminated. It is not unusual for advanced electronic patient data practices to enable an improved negotiating position for managed care contracts. With digital reminders about treatment and medication schedules, the likelihood of errors, omissions and mistakes is reduced.

Improving Internal Communications

Improving Internal Communications

Improved communication is one of the secrets to success when health information management systems are upgraded to include electronic patient records. In a survey conducted by NAMCS, almost 60 percent of doctors reported better communication with the entire care team as a direct result of electronic health records. For example, with paper records only one healthcare professional at a time can view the patient’s file – digitized records facilitate simultaneous retrieval by multiple members of the care team. Equally important, 50 percent of physicians stated that referral management was improved.

Potential Challenges

Digitizing and archiving patient records are not without some practical challenges that need to be anticipated and overcome along the way. Here are three examples:

  1. The “best” electronic medical records systems require adherence to stringent standards at all data management points.
  2. Computer down time can be a manageable problem depending on the willingness to invest in more advanced computer systems.
  3. Electronic order entry procedures need to be streamlined as you proceed.

Cost-effective solutions for most potential challenges will involve working with professional organizations that observe industry “Best Practices.” Regardless of the many benefits of digitizing patient records, healthcare professionals should seek expert help from data management specialists before proceeding with a comprehensive conversion process.


According to a 2005 Rand Corporation study, U.S. healthcare professionals can save in excess of $80 billion per year while also creating more accessible and accurate information by digitizing patient data. But there is not always one obvious choice for bridging the initial gap between current paper records and the desired electronic format. For example, there are three primary methods for digitizing patient data:

  • Scanning
  • Conversion from Legacy or External Sources
  • Manual Data Entry

Additionally, a prudent patient record conversion process must devote considerable attention to archiving of patient records. “Best Practices” in this area include a PDF/A format – the ISO standard 19005 for long-term archiving.

Improving Patient Outcomes and Diagnostics

Digitized Patient Records do much more than replacing paper charts. They provide patients greater data accessibility and help deepen patient engagement. According to a Dartmouth University study, hospitals transitioning to EHR systems saw noteworthy improvements in the outcomes for conditions of heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia. However, switching from paper-based records to electronic mode can be a major cost-bearing exercise. Nevertheless, as long as companies like DataEntryOutsourced offer cost-effective data entry services for EHR activity, such obstacles can be easily overcome. EHRs are expected to play a key role in improving healthcare systems in many developed nations. Soon enough, it could be mandatory.

– Data Entry Outsourced

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