Records Management: The Complete Guide
Creating and maintaining records is an essential aspect of many businesses. Hospitals keep patient records on file, including but not limited to, diagnoses, prescriptions, and lab results. Retail businesses keep customer accounts for marketing and retention purposes. Even libraries house certain records for managing inventory and keeping track of patrons.
Having a compliant records management processes helps ensure that employees can access this information while maintaining compliance with federal and state regulations. However, 97% of organizations have little to no digital document processes for keeping tabs on the volume of records they encounter during the workday. Our guide lays out the basics, showing you the importance of records management, how to implement processes for your organization, and third-party services that can help.
Records management is the process by which organizations generate, store, and archive physical and digital records throughout the document lifecycle in a way that supports their operational and legal needs.
Organizations that implement effective records management systems generally see improved adherence to compliance requirements, enhanced data security, and increased productivity.
- Creation: Records and documents are created at the beginning of a project or when a new customer, client, or patient is added to the system.
- Storage: Records are secured on physical drives and files, network storage, or the cloud.
- Use/Retrieval: Employees and customers will access documents for reference, to make updates, or to collaborate on larger projects.
- Archival/Disposal: Old documents are either placed in long-term storage (on- or off-site) or shredded, depending on future need or legal requirements.
The Document Lifecycle:
Manual or Automated Records Management?
Organizations can manage records manually or with automated processes that tag and sort files as employees upload them to a central repository. Here are a few reasons why you might want to choose an automated records management system:
With an automated system, employees throughout your organization will spend less time storing and retrieving records and more time working with them.
Organizations that need to create and work with hundreds or thousands of records in a workday will see more significant benefits from automated records management systems.
Some organizations, like healthcare-related businesses and law offices, must adhere to strict compliance requirements. Automated records management systems track compliance standards across all stored files and monitor users as they access them.
Did You Know? The fi-8270 comes equipped with a powerfully fast automatic document feeder and versatile flatbed scanner. Digitize paper records, ID cards, books, awkward files, and more to capture everything you need to maximize your records management efforts
While every organization will have its own needs and requirements, there are several crucial features every business should look for when implementing a records management system.
- Compliance and security: For healthcare organizations or other covered entities, storing and accessing records in accordance with HIPAA regulations is an absolute must. Even if your business doesn’t have compliance requirements, data security should be top of mind.
- Centralized Repository: Storing records within a single, centralized location makes searching and accessing records fast and easy. It also ensures a single source of truth for important customer or patient records.
- Document capture and indexing: Optical character recognition allows records management systems to automatically parse information from scanned documents and sort files by content.
- Version control and audit trail: If multiple people require access to the same records, version control ensures organizations can track who made changes and when for full accountability.
Features Every Records Management System Needs
Physical records can easily fall out of order and can typically only be sorted and searched for in a single way. Teams can easily organize digital records with metatags, making searching by name, department, or other essential criteria simple and efficient.
Natural disasters, theft, and other factors can cause the instant loss of crucial information. Plus, physical records degrade over time through natural exposure to the elements. Digitization helps to mitigate this risk, especially when records are stored in the cloud.
Implementing electronic records management system enables access to critical information, no matter where employees work. Facilitate international collaboration, provide remote workers access, or make it easier for on-site employees to get the information they need without leaving their desks.
Records management is a crucial element for maximizing the efficiency of any workplace. For many businesses, though, this element is often overlooked, with processes for creating and storing records mainly left undocumented. Here’s how you can set up a records management system for your business, along with some best practices for training staff to ensure your team has the tools it needs right from the start.
- Audit: Examine your internal processes for record intake, storage, and archival and determine where your most significant pain points are.
- Make a list: Take inventory of all types of records and documentation your system will interact with, like employee records, patient/client records, important notes, billing information, and more. This list will help determine which elements must adhere to compliance regulations.
- Develop policies: This will determine how your staff will move records through the document life cycle. A document management system can help automate many of these policies for you.
- Evaluate: Regular evaluations of your systems will ensure you’re reacting to feedback and removing additional pain points as they crop up.
Steps for Developing a Records Management System
Lock down fundamentals
Before you develop the policies that shape your approach to records management, you should identify what your managers will be responsible for. If your managers understand the roles each document and record plays and how they can be secured, you can develop policies that codify these procedures in concrete ways for the rest of the team.
Develop compliance culture
Teams should be aware of the methods for attaining compliance, undergo regular training to set good records management habits, and be fully aware of the consequences of neglect.
Create a shared vocabulary
Many elements of the records management process use specialized terms, and if teams aren’t aware of this vocabulary, miscommunication is inevitable. Ensure teams have a baseline understanding of standards such as ISO 15489.
Read more about designing a records management system that ticks all your organization’s boxes in How to Build a Records Management System at Your Company and Up-Skill Your Staff With These 4 Records Management Training Best Practices.
If your business lacks the time, equipment, or resources to manage your own records, numerous third-party organizations will do the heavy lifting for you. In addition to records management, many businesses offer services to help scan, store, or destroy documents for you.
- Digitization: Conversion from physical documents to digital files can be a significant undertaking, especially if you have a sizable backlog of records and lack the tools to digitize them. Many records management companies will scan and digitize these records for you in compliance with the necessary regulations.
- Off-site storage: Storing physical documents over a long period of time requires a significant investment in space, as well as security and user access management for these spaces. If you need long-term, disaster-proof storage for paper archives, these companies can help.
- Shredding and disposal: Some documents must be destroyed when they’re no longer in use, and specialized services can shred large volumes of paperwork for you.
Services to Consider
Clio is a cloud-based business management solution created specifically for law firms, solo legal practitioners, and other law-related businesses. Manage records, set rates, and get legally-binding signatures within the platform.
Hyland OnBase is a content services platform that stores, organizes, and optimizes digitized documents and records. Plus, OnBase’s Smart Folders help to point out when files are missing, so employees can confirm that they’ve been correctly scanned into the platform.
Those in the market for a records management document scanner have no shortage of options. We take great pride in having spent the last 50+ years researching, designing, and developing some of the most advanced and powerful electronics in the world, including our professional grade fi series of scanners.
Built to purpose for the most demanding document handling jobs, fi series scanners are capable of processing tens of thousands of pages per day at the highest levels of accuracy. Their intuitive integration capabilities with all existing work suites minimize time-to-value for businesses looking to invest in tools that will pay dividends for years to come.
The fi-8270 combines speed and versatility with a 100-page automatic document feeder and letter-size flatbed scanner. Speed through up to 70 double-sided pages per minute or take care of awkward or fragile documents, all on the same machine. Digitize your records with ease, no matter what form they’re in. Click here to learn more or shop the rest of our production scanner line.
For even more professional-ready digitization solutions, be sure to check out our entire range of scanners.
Note: Information and external links are provided for your convenience and for educational purposes only, and shall not be construed, or relied upon, as legal advice. PFU America, Inc. makes no representations about the contents, features, or specifications on such third-party sites, software, and/or offerings (collectively “Third-Party Offerings”) and shall not be responsible for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of such Third-Party Offerings. Please consult with a licensed attorney regarding your specific situation as regulations may be subject to change.