Scanning Is a Feature of Healthcare IT and Will Be Forever

When I first started writing about EMR and EHR, I regularly discussed the idea of a paperless office. What I didn’t realize at the time and what has become incredibly clear to me now is that paper will play a part in every office Forever (which I translate to my lifetime). While paper will still come into an office, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a paperless office when it comes to the storage and retrieval of those files. The simple answer to the paper is the scanner.

A great example of this point was discussed in this post by The Nerdy Nurse called “Network Scanning Makes Electronic Medical Records Work.” She provides an interesting discussion about the various scanning challenges from home health nurses to a network scanner used by multiple nurses in a hospital setting.

The good people at HITECH Answers also wrote about “Scanning and Your EHR Implementation.” Just yesterday I got an email from someone talking about how they should approach their old paper charts. It’s an important discussion that we’re still going to have for a while to come. I’m still intrigued by the Thinning Paper Charts approach to scanning, but if I could afford it I’d absolutely outsource the scanning to an outside company. They do amazing work really fast. They even offer services like clinical data abstraction so you can really enhance the value of your scanned charts.

However, even if you outsource your old paper charts, you’ll still need a heavy duty scanner for ongoing paper that enters your office. For example, I have the Canon DR-C125 sitting next to my desk and it’s a scanner that can handle the scanning load of healthcare. You’ll want a high speed scanner like this one for your scanning. Don’t try to lean on an All-in-One scanner-printer-copier. It seems like an inexpensive alternative, but the quality just isn’t the same and after a few months of heavy scanning you’ll have to buy a new All-in-One after you burn it out. Those are just made for one off scanning as opposed to the scanning you have to do in healthcare.

David Harlow also covers an interesting HIPAA angle when it comes to scanners. In many cases, scanners don’t store any PHI on the scanner. However, in some cases they do and so you’ll want to be aware of this so that the PHI stored on the device is cleaned before you dispose of it.

Certainly many organizations are overwhelmed by meaningful use, ICD-10, HIPAA Omnibus, and changing reimbursement. However, things like buying the right scanner make all the difference when it comes to the long term happiness of your users.

Sponsored by Canon U.S.A., Inc.  Canon’s extensive scanner product line enables businesses worldwide to capture, store and distribute information.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, 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,, 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.


  • I was wondering of the Canon had scan to cloud capabilities. For many saas / web browser based solutions this is a very useful feature. Some scanners offer box or dropbox capabilities, I think this should be standard feature set or even a configurable url to securely upload files, using SFTP or other well known protocol.

  • This article above seems to gloss over the reality that very few private practice offices actually get rid of their multi-function machines.

    The device John wrote the article for is a “pure” desktop scanner that would generally be used daily to scan in id cards and a few pages per patient appointment.

    I believe what John refers to when he mentions a multi-function device is if you go to your local big box store and get a multi-function device for under about $400, you are going to run into problems.

    I deal upwards of 100 different private practice offices a year. Very few have gotten rid of the “higher end” multi-function device (while still having a number of desktop scanners around still).

    These are generally solid machines that are leased. The have all the capability to scan as needed, even if you are just now pulling in all your paper records – yet they also act as network printer and fax machine (yes, in addition to the EHR scan server you probably also have).

    The paper-less office is still a distant dream…and not completely practical…yet not impossible.

  • Definitely the sad but true reality of modern healthcare; it will be a long time until we have truly paperless practices (despite what the HIMSS Analytic awards indicate). Another interesting side of this is with the patients. How long will we be managing heaps of paper if we want to engage in our own care? Even the organizations who use an EMR that we receive records from usually send it in paper. The new omnibus ruling will help, but I still see many years of managing paper in the future of most engaged patients.

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