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Hinton Davis

Hinton Davis

Business Development Manager at Docufree | Specializing in Document Scanning and Capture, Workflow Automation and Enterprise Content Management

Medical Document Scanning: In-house vs. Outsourcing

While many industries have realized the benefits of digitizing records and documents, healthcare organizations in both the UK and the US are still slow in making the transition. This is often due to the belief that scanning medical records and documents is too large an investment to justify or too much of a risk.

Read the article to learn more about the options for digitizing your medical records.

The volume of medical records that healthcare organizations process has increased tenfold in the last five years. When you consider the amount of resources required to manage paper medical records, not only do the records take up valuable space that could be better used for clinical purposes, but they also present a number of Data Protection and Compliance challenges.

Just consider the costs and risks:

  • The increasing volume of paper drives the cost of paper handling higher with the ongoing investment in paper, printers, photocopiers, and ink cartridges.
  • Paper medical records can easily be damaged by fire, flooding, or simply human error. 
  • The movement of the paper medical records are usually uncontrolled and can go missing.  Information is regularly misfiled.
  • An on-site storage solution is a poor use of real estate.  Many of these areas are not fit for purpose and insecure. Transitioning space previously used for file storage into patient care areas can also drive additional revenue, quickly mitigating any backfile digitization costs.
  • Storage and processing of paper-based documents requires a dedicated workforce.

It is time for healthcare organizations to embrace the transition from paper to digital. Digitizing medical records can dramatically reduce costs, while simultaneously making your patients’ medical data more secure, reducing clinical risk, and improving patient care.

The time for healthcare organizations to go paperless is now. We’ve put together a useful guide for CIOs to help kickstart the digital transformation of their medical records and provide insight into the lifecycle of digital medical records:

Click here read this eBook

Additionally, there are other drivers that impact this decision. A steady increase in more doctors using electronic medical records and medical residents beginning their careers fully indoctrinated in and expecting to care for patients with the support of digital technologies is a continuing trend.

When done well, making the switch from paper-based to digital medical records can be a painless process that quickly pays for itself.

What are the options for digitizing your medical records?

There are two ways that healthcare organizations can choose to digitize their medical records – you can decide to do it in-house, or you can choose to outsource it to a professional document scanning and management company.

  1. In-house medical records scanning

Firstly, do you have the capability to scan a high volume of medical records and documents in-house?

While in-house would seem like the quickest route to digitization, to do this properly you will need quality scanners, dedicated staff, project managers, technical training, space for workstations, quality assurance procedures, servers, and printers, plus the specialized software to make it all work.

The majority of healthcare organizations will have a vast number of active and legacy medical records. To be able to manage the scanning of these medical records in-house you need to consider the following:

  • Do you have the right scanning equipment? Standard office-based scanners will not be able to cope with a high volume of records. You will need to invest in scanners that are fit for purpose, bearing in mind that they will become obsolete over time.  Whatever scanner you choose is unlikely to be able to scan all the various types of documents found in a typical medical record, such as ECG’s, large format charts etc.
  • Do you have the resources? Even if you do have the right type of scanner do you actually have enough resources in-house to be able to undertake the work and meet the deadlines expected by your clinicians. You will need to factor in start-up training as well as ongoing training as new systems or new staff members are added.
  • What are your indexing requirements?Digitizing documents doesn’t just mean scanning them into a system. You need to consider how you plan to search and retrieve records going forward and this might require a degree of manual indexing. Therefore, depending on how complicated your indexing procedure needs to be, this could slow the process down substantially and create a backlog of records to scan.
  • What are the deadlines for documents to be scanned?If documents need to be digitized in time for an upcoming clinic appointment, or your organization just wants a fast turnaround, you might not be able to meet your deadline if your in-house capacity is limited.  Experience shows us that healthcare organizations are regularly unable to keep up with the demand of ‘day-forward scanning’ and often fall behind, which means the digital medical records are not available when they are needed.

Too often the task of scanning records is often given to juniors, interns, or temps, which can increase the risk of errors and may result in anything from lawsuits, and privacy breaches.

Learn how digitization can help reduce costs, improve operational efficiency and increase productivity and the six lifecycle stages of a digital medical record in our free guide.

  1. Outsourced medical records scanning

Your other option is to outsource medical records scanning to professionals who have the knowledge, experience and skills to undertake large-scale projects. Outsourcing is usually recommended for large-scale digitization projects and is generally faster and more affordable than trying to do it in-house.

It is important to select an outsourcing company who understands the healthcare sector and all the compliance and regulatory requirements that really matter to your organization.

“Outsourcing” may sound like a risk, in that you will be handing over important and private medical records in order to digitize, however, your organization can gain some much-needed value and benefits:  

  • You will get best practice for medical records scanning– Your documents will be scanned by skilled professionals with proven processes in place that are designed to maximize image quality and data accuracy.  Document preparation requires experienced personnel to ensure documents are processed by people who understand the documents they are handling.
  • Using a supplier who has access to top-of-the-range equipment– Meaning they will be capable of scanning various types of documents using high speed, flatbed, and large format scanners.
  • Reduced costs compared to scanning documents in-house– When you take into account all the costs associated with scanning in-house, including staff costs, maintenance of scanning machinery, slower processing times, manual indexing, and software investment you will soon see that outsourcing is a more cost-effective option.
  • Increased security for both your physical and digital records – Select a supplier who will collect your medical records directly and securely from your premises. Choose a supplier who will also provide the tools to allow you to track your information at all times to individual patient file level.
  • True representation of the original documents – Medical records scanned accurately under controlled processes will ensure that no information is missed, and strict quality control checks are followed.  This will further ensure that all your regulatory and compliance requirements in regards to privacy, data protection and security are met.
  • Easier to plan and budget – your organization will be paying for a cost per image which makes it easier to forecast the costs of a project and ongoing scanning.

When you consider the risk of errors and privacy breaches, it’s no wonder that many healthcare organizations are increasingly making the informed decision to outsource their scanning needs to third parties.

This is because their processes are compliant with current legislation – essential to offer reassurance and peace of mind to organizations in the healthcare industry.  By contracting the job to professionals, you will reduce both clinical and data protection risks.

Learn how Docufree helped a large progressive healthcare system in the New York metro area digitize 30M pages of patient information


Scanning medical records can feel like an overwhelming and huge undertaking and it should not be underestimated, but document scanning can help you deal with the rapidly increasing burden of maintaining a paper archive.

By outsourcing you are handing over a huge administrative task to professionals.

Outsourcing your document scanning saves capital investment and staffing costs. Choosing a scanning partner with state-of-the-art production equipment and software, managed by well trained and experienced staff, will give you greater consistency, less stress, and a more cost-effective option for document digitization than most in-house operations are capable of.

You will be free to focus on delivering the very best patient care with the added benefits of working from digitized documents!

Want to learn more about how scanning your medical records can benefit your healthcare organization? Contact us today.

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