Tips for transitioning to paperless medical records

This post was written in conjunction with Moataz Giurgius, MD., who completely digitized his small practice.

As you begin seeing patients in the days and weeks after switching to an EHR, all of their new charts are stored digitally. But what happens when you want to refer to your patient’s chart from a few months, or years, ago?

Many doctors who have adopted an EHR still have to store and access paper charts to get insight into their patients’ medical history. This was where my father’s practice was last year—using Practice Fusion on a daily basis, but still holding onto hundreds of patient files. Then we decided to go paperless.

Transitioning to a paperless practice is a complex process, but one that can provide undeniable benefits. Having all of your patient information digitized is the ultimate way to take advantage of a cloud-based EHR. You can access all of the information you need anytime, anywhere.

Being able to access charts at home or on a mobile device reduces the stress of having to go into your office for an emergency phone call, not to mention the gas money and time it saves driving back and forth from your office. Once my father transitioned to a 100% paperless office, he was able to spend more time at home and could finally take a vacation, knowing that he could easily access charts remotely and keep track of what was happening at his practice while he was away from the physical office. Working with a cloud-based EHR also saved his practice nearly $1000 in the past year alone on ink and paper. Plus, there was no more burden of having to buy and carry boxes of paper and frequently change ink in the printer.

My experience helping my dad’s practice become completely digitized gave me insight into some best practices for transferring all of your paper records into your EHR:

  • Invest in a good scanner. A terrible scanner can be your biggest hang-up. We have two scanners in our office (and we needed both): A NeatDesk Desktop Scanner Digital Filing System for PC and Mac for the day-to-day scanning—like a patient’s insurance card, ID, and labs that come in—and a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Scanner for bulk scanning. The bulk scanner is what you need to import charts—you’ll need a scanner with an automatic document feeder, one that can take many pages at once (I recommend getting one that can take up to 40 pages). This will save you a lot of time as you go through each patient chart.

  • Double-check your file sizes. The current size limit for uploading documents to Practice Fusion is 10 MB. Make sure that your scanner can compress and save a file size smaller than this.

  • Pace yourself; set a budget and a timeline. It took me months to scan and import all of my father’s patient charts—10 years worth—into Practice Fusion. This is a time-consuming process, and one that can potentially be expensive if you decide to outsource the work to one of your staff members. But, keep in mind that it’s the only cost associated with going digital if you use Practice Fusion. Set some short- and long-term goals. Start by transferring charts for the patients that you see most frequently, and then expand from there.