This is an update to the blog, “10 Easy Tips to Digitize Your Patient Healthcare Records

Digitize Patients’ Medical Records

Medical document scanning and imaging is rising drastically and medical practices and clinics are confronted with the reality that scanning of all critical patient documents is often a bigger challenge that expected. Converting and storing patients’ records require proper management of medical records to ensure quality and consistency, along with strict compliance with HIPAA.

Medical records consist of various documents like, patient information, lab reports, prescriptions, insurance papers, patient medical history, past appointments etc. Keeping track of medical records can be difficult if health information is in multiple places or in different formats. This challenge gets even harder when working with several doctors. So, digitizing medical records is important. It helps physicians access the medical records easily and thereby improve quality of care, patient engagement and ensure better health outcomes.

So, here are some steps to digitize medical records, as suggested in an article that appeared in hospitalnews.com:

  • Redesigning all forms before implementing scanning of patient records i.e. all colored coded forms that have no relevance in a black and white digital record can be eliminated. Multi copy forms with bindings that hamper medical document scanning should be removed. Bar codes and standardized titles can be added to forms for better scanning productivity.
  • Set up productivity standards for each records conversion function and hold staff accountable for meeting or exceeding these standards. This measure will ensure that all records are digitized accurately.
  • Assign more staff at the start up so that all records received each day can be accurately processed within the turnaround time. As the project progresses and productivity improves, gradually decrease the number of staffs.
  • Maintain an inventory or log of all records that need to be digitized, and cross check against a log created after digitization. This ensures 100 per cent reconciliation and every record needs to be accounted for and retrievable at all times.
  • Records of similar types can be organized and kept together like double-sided versus single-sided documents, over sized versus standard sized documents, and landscape versus portrait documents.
  • Make sure that any tape used for repairing documents or mounting small documents must be tested pre-production because high gloss tapes can cast shadows and interfere with the quality of the image. Moreover, the glue in some tapes will wipe out whatever is written underneath.
  • Decide whether all the documents can be scanned in black and white or in color especially in ECGs to provide good quality images. Find out whether all documents can be scanned at 200 dpi or at 300 dpi.
  • Before scanning, poor quality and illegible documents should be returned to their sources for correction. The legibility of patient demographic is essential for digital imaging.
  • Cleaning scanning devices like changing roller and pads regularly ensures that the output is optimal.
  • Implement 4 eyes principle to ensure flawless quality checks. This means one person is checking the work of another, and never checking his or her own work.

Google’s “Project Nightingale”

Google has teamed up with one of the U.S.’ largest healthcare systems on a project to collect and crunch the detailed personal health information of millions of people across 21 states. This project is said to be the biggest effort to gain a toehold in the healthcare industry through the handling of patients’ medical data. This project was started in secret last year with St. Louis-based Ascension, a Catholic chain of 2,600 hospitals, doctors’ offices and other facilities, with the data sharing accelerating since summer, according to internal documents. The data involved in the initiative includes lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth. Google has teamed up with Ascension to crunch patient data for treatment and administrative purposes. When a patient checks into the office, the nurse or doctor examines the patient and enters data into the computers. This data instantly flows to Google’s ‘Project Nightingale’ and the system suggests outcomes like treatment plan, replacement or addition of doctors to patient’s team, additional enforcement of narcotics policies and so on. Around 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients. News released after the Wall Street Journal report stated that this initiative is compliant with federal health law and includes robust protections for patient data. Although there have been questions about data collection and sharing, it is permissible under the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

Google Cloud President Tariq Shaukat said the company’s goal for healthcare is centered on “ultimately improving outcomes, reducing costs, and saving lives. Ascension, the second-largest health system in the U.S., aims to improve patient care. It also hopes to mine data to identify additional tests that could be necessary or other ways in which the system could generate more revenue from patients.

Google appears to share information within Project Nightingale more broadly than in its other forays into healthcare data. In September, Google announced a 10-year deal with the Mayo Clinic to store the hospital system’s genetic, medical and financial records. Mayo officials had assured that any data used to develop new software would be wiped clean of personally identifiable patient information before it is shared with Google.

Project Nightingale appears to align with the learning health system concept and systematically improve healthcare. It also improves understanding of what treatments are effective and safe for these underrepresented populations.

Proper medical record scanning processes can prevent potential problems and ensure quick retrieval and safe storage of critical data. Digitizing patient records leads to better data accuracy at all points. It provides patients greater data accessibility and improves patient engagement. Switching from paper-based documents to electronic mode can be a difficult task but outsourcing to a reliable provider of data conversion services helps to quicken the process of digitization with utmost accuracy and high quality.