Thinking Disaster Preparedness? Don’t Forget Your Documents.

Emergency back up plan for paper documents is document management systemAs a smart business owner or manager, you probably already have a disaster preparedness plan in place for your company. And hopefully, as you were assessing potential risks, you remembered to include an emergency back-up strategy for all that paper in your filing cabinets or off-site storage locations.

Dealing with years of hard-copy records can be a daunting task. But losing them – particularly the important, historic or irreplaceable ones – could be devastating. One of the easiest and most cost-efficient options is digitizing your documents, and I’ve invited our electronic document management expert, Dennis Porter, to share his recommendations on how to get started with this process.

Before you panic thinking about all those stacks of paper, first determine which ones are really mission critical to your business. Chances are, the documents that fit into that category are a manageable amount.

The second step is considering your options with document management systems. I see most companies use the “from this day forward” approach. Another similar option is to go back to the beginning of your fiscal year and start there with scanning and indexing your documents. And while both of these are a great way to to jump into the process of electronic document storage, they leave out those old, mission-critical hard copies.

One way to address this issue is to combine the “from this day forward” method along with scanning any file that you may pull from a filing cabinet. If you have to pull it from a filing cabinet, you’re probably going to need it again someday. It’s already in your hand, so why not scan it? You’ll never need to pull it again, and your document management system will back it up.

To this you can also add a round-up of key historic documents and scan them at one time to ensure their protection.

Digital Storage Options for Your Documents

To ensure the safety of your electronic files not only in an emergency, but also on a day-to-day basis, you need a primary back-up system. Thankfully, digital storage space is cheap these days. A 1TB (terabyte) hard drive is less than $100 and can hold as much as 1000 filing cabinets. Other types of primary back-up options include multiple hard drives and a server. Your data should be mirrored, which means when you save a document, it’s copied to all your back-up systems.

You also may opt for an online service, such as Dropbox or Carbonite, as a redundant (or secondary) off-site back-up. These services provide a real-time or scheduled back-up of your data to “the cloud,” which is a fancy term for a secure, encrypted server on the Internet. You can use a tape back-up, but those appear to be going away as technology moves forward.

Finally, consider using a portable hard drive that’s plugged into a server by day and goes home with an employee at night.

If you’re wondering what the best option for your business is, talk to your IT services specialist.

How to Keep Scanned Files More Manageable

When scanning files, don’t scan at a higher dpi or resolution than you need. We recommend 300 dpi for most documents. Scanning a document at a higher resolution than you need just results in a larger file that takes longer to back up, upload, or access with document management services.

On the flipside, scanning a document at too low of a resolution will create problems if your system is trying to convert those documents to a “searchable” format. Look at your scanner setting. Don’t assume they are set at an optimal level.

If your business is located in Canton, North Canton, Akron, Youngstown or west of Pittsburgh, I would be happy to talk with you more about document management services and how they can benefit your company. Contact us to learn more.

Image credit: elenathewise / 123RF Stock Photo

Gearing Up for HIPAA Compliance Audits in IT, Part 6: Document Management

How to prepare for HIPAA audit with document management and EHRsA good electronic document management system is an essential part or complement to an electronic health record (EHR), as well as a copier or printer. Let us be honest – as much as you might want to deal only with e-documents, you will need to handle paper for the foreseeable future. So, if you are facing a HIPAA audit, it is essential to make sure that paper records are handled with as much care as digital ones. In my continuing series on preparing for these new HIPAA audits, I have invited Dennis Porter, our document management expert, to cover issues related to document management, EHRs and PHI (protected health information).

If I put myself in the auditor’s shoes, there are several things I would look at closely when it comes to document management processes and PHI security in health care.

  • Access to PHI. Best practice is to lock down employee access based on network ID – which is the same security as a domain login. So, when a person logs into the EHR or document management software, they are only granted access to very specific pieces of data. Make sure whatever system you are using allows you to restrict access at the category, folder and even document levels.
  • Audit Trail. The best document management systems and EHRs will provide documentation of all actions associated with documents, categories and folders in real time. This audit log will let you see who looked at a document, who changed it, who printed it, who emailed it, etc. And, if someone intentionally or accidentally deletes a document, the system administrator can recover it easily.
  • Server Management Component. This is the system’s security roadmap, and you should look at it carefully to ensure login permissions are right for who is allowed to view, modify, email and print PHI and  other documents. If someone doesn’t have access to a particular folder, then that person should not even be able to see that folder when logged into the document management system.
  • Second Level of Security Passwords. Many good document management systems will offer another level of password protection above the network login. In most business environments, this isn’t necessary. But, if a HIPAA audit is imminent, it’s good if you have this avenue to explore.
  • Internal Policies. These medical document management and EHR security safeguards are only as good as your network administrator and his or her network security. And, they are only as good as your internal policies and how seriously employees take them. For example, if people don’t think about logging in or out before sharing a work station, then you have a bigger problem that no e-security measure is going to fix.

Let me mention that not all document management software is created equally. Some developers – even potentially those who design EHRs – add this facet as an afterthought, a clunky add-on to their software.

You may be tempted to purchase the document management system because, on the surface, it goes along with systems you already have. Before you do that, I encourage you to try it out. If it’s not user friendly, look instead for a good universal document management system that can work with your current program. This can save you lots of headaches down the road, especially if an auditor is knocking at your door.

If you’re a medical provider in the Canton, North Canton, Akron or Youngstown area and need advice on good electronic document management practices, contact us.