Paper Chart Disposal After Implementing an EMR

Posted on September 24, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’d be planning on posting about this for a while and someone brought it up in the comments of one of my other posts. So I figure it must be time to talk about what to do with all those old paper charts. I’m not going to go into the specific regulations. First, I’m not a lawyer and don’t want to give any legal advice. Second, these regulations often vary from state to state and 50 is a lot of different regulations.

With that disclaimer, let’s take a look first at what to do with all the old paper charts that are no longer being accessed.

Archiving or Shredding Old Paper Charts
One of the big questions people ask is what do we do with the old paper charts. In this post I’m not going to talk about the various ways that you can incorporate your old paper charts into your EMR workflow. I’ve covered that a number of times before including my post about thinning your paper chart.

Instead let’s talk about what you do after you’ve had an EMR for a reasonable amount of time and you find that you’re no longer pulling paper charts on a regular basis. You might still pull the paper chart on some rare occasion, but for the most part the information you need is now in your EMR.

In my office, we chose to hire an outside company to take our paper charts and scan them into a little program for us. This did cost a bit, but it’s nice to have all of those old paper charts in a nice indexed format that we can quickly search and print out if someone requests their old records. You can even put it on a web server and do some partial integration with the program we store all these old scanned paper charts with our EMR. However, we haven’t needed to do that since medical records is the only one who ends up really accessing the charts.

Of course, the other option that I think many people do is just store them somewhere. This isn’t a horrible option since it can be in a part of your office that isn’t being utilized. It can even be off site if it’s cheaper to store it somewhere else. However, you just have to be careful of course that the location is still secured properly.

Are there other options available to those dealing with the old paper charts after implementing an EMR?

Tomorrow, I’ll follow up with a post on archiving your EMR records.