EMR Scanning and Chart Retention – EMR and HIPAA Video Series

As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to try out some videos related to EMR, EHR and healthcare IT. I’m still not sure if it’s a good idea or not, but I created 4 videos in my inaugural experience. I just used a simple web cam to create the videos since I was also streaming it live on uStream. Maybe next time I’ll set up my HD camera and do it that way.

Either way, here’s one of the videos I recorded where I respond to the following question:
Once converting paper to digital in an EMR, how long do providers plan to keep their charts?

Full Dislaimer: I’m not a lawyer, so be sure to consult a lawyer for legal advice:-)

If you like the video, be sure to check out one of the other videos I posted on EMR and EHR about EMR Data Sharing.

Let me know what you think of the videos. Should I do more? Should my face not be on video ever again? Are there other questions you’d like me to answer?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • John, one thing practices should do is to contact their malpractice insurance carrier. The reason for this is that if you retain the paper chart and have a scanned copy of that chart in your EMR you now have two medical records for one patient. I have heard that this may lead to legal problems if the patient ever sues the physician. So I would not only talk to a healthcare lawyer as you suggest, but an insurance agent also.

  • As one of the largest chart scanning companies (and 18 years in business), we have converted literally millions of paper charts and billions of images, whether the entire chart from the folder-level to document index & service date level to a partial thinned chart. And we then upload either to the Practice’s EMR or our Chart Online or iPad Chart App. With that said, 80% of our customers shred their charts after 30-60 days. So, once the chart is scanned into a system that has an audit trail and is backed up, you can re-print the chart digitally or back to paper. So, the benefits of scanning outweigh keeping them. DISCLAIMER: this is not legal advice. I am just sharing what others are doing. Steven Landau steven.landau@ctihealth.com

  • Re: Brian. That is simply not true. Old information is critical based on specialty. Pediatricians, for example, must have the patients’ immunization data in the software system in order to make certain decisions. That is done by either scanning in a sheet of paper, “immunization record” or manually abstracting from that sheet of paper – typing in all of the immunization data. And, if your pediatric practice is seeing 100 patients/day, and it takes an estimated 20 minutes to 1 hour to fully abstract a pediatric chart, your 5,000 charts would take you 200 days to populate the software (assuming 25/day), which means you’ve invested in abstraction help as your staff doesn’t have 8 free hours/day. So, even with the best software, it comes delivered to you – empty! You must populate the critical data (allergies, meds, problems, immunizations, growth charts, etc) and scanning is a great pre-abstraction solution. Otherwise, software companies should tell practices to buy their software and wait a year until they start using it and it’s populated and go-live’s wouldn’t be painful. Or….they can use a scanning and abstraction company and like iTunes, have their records ready for use when they need them. An empty iPod (EMR) doesn’t work too well.

  • Manny, interesting information about malpractice. I can see some possible issues there.

    brian, so it’s poor software design that you have to scan the paper that the patient brings in to your office (ie. sports physical forms)? Of course, not. Scanning that paper into your EMR is the best solution out there.

  • After scanning, is the data still typed in by hand? Or is
    OCR and form recognition used to get most of the data automatically?

  • Ken,
    Depends on the clinic, but I’d say that most people that want the data have to type it by hand. I did talk to one interesting scanning company recently that did the data capture as well as the scanning. So, that’s another interesting option.

    Although, I’d also say that many just scan it without any sort of specific data capture other than a pretty standard index to find the chart.

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