As the world accelerates its shift towards digitization, the healthcare sector is progressively recognizing the power of medical record scanning services. Healthcare practitioners are using them to not only convert paper to pixels, but also streamline how they access, manage, and utilize patient data.
The only thing is, the paper-to-digital migration process has its legal and technical complications. Medical practitioners are now required to uphold data privacy, regulatory compliance, and digital accessibility before, during, and after the conversion process.
With Archive Corp’s records management solutions, though, they get a pretty convenient workaround. One that complies with regulatory standards like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and HITECH (the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) – all while also offering the agility, accessibility, and security of digital medical records.
If you’re curious about what to expect, we invite you to follow along as we clarify the benefits of scanning medical records.
Types of Medical Records to Digitize for HIPAA Compliance
Not all documents are created equal. Some form the foundation of a patient’s medical journey, while others offer supplementary insights that add depth and understanding.
Here’s a breakdown of the categories to prioritize during medical record digitization:
- Personal Identification Information (PII): Holds personal details, including social security numbers and addresses.
- Medical History: Paints a vivid picture of a patient’s health by detailing past illnesses, surgeries, and treatments.
- Family Medical History: Clarifies the medical conditions of close family members, which may help in pointing out potential hereditary concerns or predispositions.
- Admission and Discharge Summaries: Accounts of hospital admissions, treatments rendered, and the context of the discharges.
- Billing and Insurance Records: Capture patient billing, insurance claims, and other monetary transactions.
- Lab Reports: Includes X-rays, EKGs, or other diagnostic results that aid in treatment.
- Prescription Records: Detailed logs of medications, capturing dosages, administration schedules, and refill histories.
- Treatment Plans: As a roadmap for recovery, these documents outline the recommended treatments, therapies, and follow-up care.
- Surgical Notes: Offer insights into the surgeries performed, the methodologies employed, and the care administered pre and post-operation.
Therefore, by scanning and digitizing medical records, you’ll basically be building a detailed EHR that’ll holistically optimize your healthcare service delivery.
What HIPAA Says About Electronic Health Records
Due to the sensitivity of medical information, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was instituted in 1996 as a legal safeguard.
Today, the protective scope of HIPAA covers more than just traditional paper records. It extends even to electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI).
And to shield this digital data, HIPAA has laid out a three-dimensional framework of physical, technical, and administrative measures.
Administrative Safeguards are overarching policies and procedures that are meant to detect, deter, and rectify potential breaches.
Vulnerabilities are addressed after analyzing and understanding the entire ePHI ecosystem – including how data flows, where it originates, who accesses it, and potential threats.
While our focus is often on the digital, the physical realm cannot be overlooked. These safeguards are the tangible barriers that keep electronic systems and their infrastructure safe from unauthorized access and natural disasters.
Digitized medical records are, for instance, backed up to off-site storage centers – where they remain protected from any physical intrusion of your company’s premises.
Here, tech-based measures utilize automated processes to protect data and control who gets to see it.
From authentication protocols that verify user identities to encryption mechanisms that cloak data in layers of security, technical safeguards keep ePHI both accessible and protected.
The Benefits of Scanning Medical Records for HIPAA Compliance
Choosing to digitize medical records is a strategic move that comes with multiple benefits. You’ll be complying with industry regulations while, at the same time, improving the quality of your healthcare delivery.
Here’s a breakdown of the specifics:
1. Reinforces Data Security
By scanning and digitizing medical records, they become eligible for encryption.
Encryption is a complex algorithmic transformation that turns readable data into a coded format, decipherable only with the right decryption key.
This method of securing data is a fundamental element of the Technical Safeguards prescribed by HIPAA for electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI).
The same legislation further outlines an Access Control provision, with which healthcare practitioners get to reinforce granular authentication protocols. Once you’ve scanned and digitized medical records, access privileges can be restricted via multi-factor authentication (MFA) protocols, biometric scans, tokens, etc.
2. Improves Data Integrity
Data integrity pertains to the accuracy and consistency of data over its entire lifecycle. This is something that HIPAA’s Integrity Control provision mandates, in its directives, that ePHI should remain consistent and unaltered unless there’s a valid reason for the modification.
Digitized medical records use several systems to facilitate that. The data itself is usually held in uniform file structures, thus maintaining consistency throughout its lifecycle.
Your digital records could additionally be sealed with checksums or digital signatures. That means every time a record is accessed or modified, its hash value is recalculated and compared to the original. If any record is altered, its hash value changes, triggering an alert.
Scanned medical records are further stored in centralized databases or Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems – which facilitate easier monitoring and auditing. Any unauthorized access or anomalies can be detected and addressed much more efficiently compared to scattered paper records.
3. Protects Patient Privacy
Digital records, unlike their paper-based counterparts, offer a range of tools and functionalities that can be harnessed to protect sensitive patient information.
You’ll have access to automated digital tools that are capable of scanning your EHR system and redacting predefined sensitive information – such as Social Security numbers, addresses, or specific medical details.
This PHI de-identification process happens to feature prominently in HIPAA’s Privacy Rule. Algorithms are supposed to strip away identifiable information, leaving the resultant data useful but not directly linkable to an individual.
A good example is the Regex pattern, which typically detects and redacts Social Security numbers in the format XXX-XX-XXXX.
4. Reduces Physical Storage Needs
When medical records are scanned and digitized, they transition from occupying physical space on shelves to residing in digital storage systems – like servers or cloud-based platforms.
What might have required an entire room or even a building to store in paper form is condensed into a server that occupies just a fraction of the space.
Those digital storage spaces are also inherently scalable. As the volume of records grows, healthcare entities can expand their digital storage capacity without making major infrastructural changes.
Although the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) doesn’t directly compel practitioners to shrink their storage, the policies under its Physical Safeguards subtly support the move. This is the part that directs entities to enforce measures that minimize the risks associated with physical access.
5. Facilitates Disaster Recovery
The healthcare sector, with its heavy reliance on accurate and timely patient data, cannot afford significant disruptions from unforeseen disasters.
Unlike paper records, which are singular and vulnerable to physical damage, digital records can be duplicated with ease and stored in multiple locations. This redundancy strategy guarantees that even if one storage location encounters issues, the data remains safeguarded in an alternate location.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has provisions that emphasize such levels of contingency planning. You’ll find them under the Administrative Safeguards, directing healthcare entities to establish disaster recovery plans for restoring any lost data.
Take Advantage of the Benefits of Scanning Medical Records
Going by the many compelling benefits of scanning medical records, it’s evident that the future of healthcare leans heavily towards digitization.
But, don’t just look at it as a technological shift. You should, rather, take this transition as a commitment to reinforcing data security and improving patient care.
Now, if you’re wondering about the “how”, that’s where we come in. At Archive Corp, we specialize in bridging the gap between traditional and digital. We can seamlessly convert your archived records into electronic formats, to make them easily accessible, secure, and compliant with all regulatory standards.
Learn more about our records scanning services and discover how we’re transforming healthcare operations. Then for an even broader scope, you can go ahead and explore our detailed guide on converting documents to electronic files.