Medical history charts and physical examination archives are essential for any hospital, doctor’s office, dental practice, veterinary practice, or any other patient-serving healthcare business. Being able to easily and reliably pull up information on patient history makes it possible for medical professionals to provide smarter, superior, and more personalized care. Without medical charts and other patient files, no medical practice would be able to survive as an effective business.
The Pros and Cons of Paper-Based Medical Filing Systems
Unfortunately, physical medical charts, while they are essential for the healthcare industry, are also a flawed form of documentation. The major problem is that many medical, dental, orthodontic, chiropractic, and veterinary practices are still using paper filing systems to preserve their patient information.
There are several benefits to the paper file management systems that most medical practices still use. For one thing, all of the files are right there, stored away on shelves or in filing cabinets. For private practitioners especially, this model can be ideal because they can easily walk over to a shelf and use an alphabetical organization system to find the patient file they need. It’s a low-tech model, to be sure, but a comfortable one for some healthcare professionals.
With that said, though, the drawbacks of paper-based filing systems far outweigh the benefits, especially in a healthcare environment. Here are a few reasons why:
First of all, patient files take up a lot of space. The more patients you have, the more office space you are devoting to storing charts and medical histories. Some of those patients may only visit the office once in a great while. Others might only come one time and then move away or opt for a different practice. Still, those people and their files clog up your shelves and take up costly space in your practice.
Paper files can be a way of securely storing patient information if you use a locked file room or locked file cabinets to store them. But your files are only as secure as your storage method. Can you say for certain that your patient files will remain secure in the case of a break in? And what about when it comes time to dispose of old, out-of-date documents? You’ll probably have to hire a third-party company to come by and destroy those sensitive patient files to ensure ongoing confidentiality.
Hiring a file destruction company isn’t the only extra expense you’ll face if you organize your medical files using a paper-based system. You’ll also drain resources on buying folders and paying for the paper and ink necessary to print out new charts or make copies. In practices or hospitals that see a lot of new patients every week, the paper usage numbers can be staggering.
Even if you’ve mastered the organizational workflow of your paper filing system, it still takes time to go into a file room or filing cabinet and find a specific patient’s medical charts. In fast-paced healthcare practice environments, it’s also not unheard of for files to be misplaced, lost, or filed in the wrong place. Bottom line, the organization in paper filing systems—not just in medical environments, but everywhere—tends to be convoluted at best and a complete mess at worst.
No Storage Redundancy
Perhaps the biggest problem with storing patient files in a paper-only format is how easily they can be destroyed and lost forever. If your office floods, catches fire, is hit by a hurricane or tornado, or suffers some other form of catastrophic damage, would you have any recourse of restoring patient files? Or would you have to deal with a double blow of a damaged practice and a loss of patient information?
We’ve all heard jokes about doctors and their sloppy handwriting. While these jokes enforce a stereotype, the fact is that handwritten documents—any handwritten documents—are more difficult to read than typed or printed out text. Medical charts and other patient files stored in paper filing systems are more likely to be handwritten, which can make it difficult for doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals to make sense of those files at a later date. This issue can impair a practice’s ability to provide high-quality care and can make it more difficult to claim defensible medical records in the case of a malpractice suit.
What a Switch to Digital File Management Can Do for a Medical Practice
The important question is how can hospitals and private healthcare practices improve their policies for filing and retaining customer information? Document management software (DMS) like eFileCabinet is the best bet. With DMS like eFileCabinet, it is possible to move all of your patient files into digital format. This process, while time-consuming (scanning paper files into the computer isn’t exactly short work) will help rectify each of the aforementioned drawbacks of paper filing systems.
DMS puts all of your files in digital format, eliminating the need for you to store them in file rooms or filing cabinets. Going paperless is likely the easiest way to free up space in your medical practice. You’ll also reduce your overhead by not having to spend so much on paper, folders, ink, toner, and other physical resources.
eFileCabinet’s document management software can also improve your file confidentiality, security, and organization. The program has a text-based search function, making it easy and quick for you to find the specific patient file or medical chart you are looking for. With optical character recognition, you will even be able to run text searches on old paper files that you scan into the system. This DMS’s 256-bit document encryption and user-based access permissions, meanwhile, close off your patient files to prying eyes, while storage redundancy across numerous eFileCabinet servers ensures that you will never lose your files again.
Finally, by moving all of your medical charts into digital format, you also ensure that the files are easier to read and understand. Removing handwriting from the equation simply promotes more accurate understanding of a patient’s medical history.
Try Out eFileCabinet Today!
Are you interested in learning more about what the eFileCabinet DMS can do for your medical practice? Ditch the paper filing system and start using our software today! You can try out a free demo, just click the “Free Demo” tab on the screen, type in your information, and request a complimentary 15-minute preview of the eFileCabinet software.