Hospitals spend up to $100M to scan paper

Nearly one-fourth of the 200 facilities surveyed said they are spending $100 million or more to scan paper documents. What's more, 36 percent of those hospitals plan to hold onto their paper records after they're digitized, according to document management and storage firm Iron Mountain.

The government's criteria for Meaningful Use of electronic health records (EHRs) does not mention document management. During the transition to EHRs, however, providers need some way to access electronically the paper charts of patients who have been discharged, at least for some years back. Moreover, hospitals continue to generate new paper documents and receive them from other sources. All of this requires high-speed scanners and staff time to operate them and ensure that the documents are correctly filed.

Iron Mountain found that 28 percent of the hospitals surveyed scan all documents in paper charts, even though only a portion of them may be relevant to patient care. Just 40 percent of those facilities measured the effectiveness or productivity of their scanning, while only 9 percent outsourced the work. Seventy-two percent, meanwhile, are using full-time employees to scan documents. Less than half of the hospitals said they'd scanned what they needed and had done it within the budget they'd set.

Still, 48 percent of the respondents indicated that they planned to continue using paper records alongside their EHRs for one to three years; some forecast they'd be using a hybrid system for as long as five years. That's not surprising, considering that physician documentation is the last part of an EHR that most hospitals implement. Regardless, the use of paper and electronic records together does not augur well for efficiency. 

To learn more:
- read this Iron Mountain announcement
- check out this infographic