Patient data privacy, data security, and the solutions to protect sensitive files are critical in the healthcare industry. For organizations like yours that want to convert your patient charts, hard copy files, and other paper documents to an electronic format, this whirlwind of security policies, standards, and regulations can leave you wondering about the intersection of responsible communication and privacy while creating and maintaining simple access to digital records. How does a business successfully implement scanning solutions to convert its medical records to digital while ensuring that patient privacy and HIPAA standards are met?

Let’s start with the basics.

What Is HIPAA And Who Must Comply?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), was passed into law in 1996. The act states that an individual’s health information or individually identifiable information needs to be protected so it cannot be accessed or given out to unauthorized individuals. The protected health information, or PHI, is what is covered, including electronic protected health information (ePHI), through a combination of physical, technical and administrative defences and procedures.

PHI or ePHI includes name, address, birth date, social security number, care provided, information on health or mental status, any information regarding payment or that may be used to identify the patient. Regardless of the size of facility or whether documents are stored digitally or in paper copies, all medical facilities must maintain HIPAA compliance.

How To Maintain HIPAA Compliance With Document Conversion

The challenge of staying HIPAA compliant and maintaining proper discretion while digitizing your health records can be solved by implementing proper conversion standards, policies, and procedures. The HIPAA Security Rule outlines administrative, physical, and technical safeguard requirements that need to be implemented to protect ePHI. This rule applies regardless of whether you are keeping your data on paper, microfilm and microfiche, or in electronic format.

What Do The HIPAA Security Rule Safeguards Entail?

There are three parts to the HIPAA Security Rule – Administration, Physical, and Technical. Here is a quick break down of all three defenses that are designed to ensure your records are properly secured as well as deal with any privacy violations or breaches in security.

Administration safeguards: policies and procedures to detect, deter, contain and correct violations. This includes implementing risk management and risk analysis to identify how ePHI flows through your organization, what are the sources of ePHI both internal and external, who has access to it, and what are the possible threats to the information.

Physical safeguards: required mechanisms to protect electronic systems including your equipment and the data they hold. These mechanisms protect your records from threats, environmental hazards and unauthorized intrusion. This includes restricting access to ePHI and retaining off site computer backups.

Technical safeguards: implementing automated processes used to protect data and control access to data. These processes include using authentication controls to verify that the person signing onto a computer is authorized to access that ePHI, or encrypting and decrypting data as it is being stored and/or transmitted.

Facilitating HIPAA privacy and compliance and implementing the Security Rule requires lots of moving parts to help you maintain proper administration and access to your records. What we have provided is just a quick summary; without asking the right questions for your specific organization and taking the right precautions, you are at risk for non-compliance in your document conversion process or worse, breach of privacy for your clients if sensitive information is mishandled or improperly stored. This s why it’s important to let the experts help you through the process of document conversion.

Medical Record Scanning And Digital Conversion

Now that we’ve covered the basics of HIPAA and what the compliance guidelines entail, we’ll move into the next part of this article: the scanning and digital conversion of your records. 

When we say “digital conversion,” it’s common to assume that we’re only talking about hard copy to electronic format. That’s true and is one of the types, but we’re also referring to digital-to-digital conversion. Let’s quickly take a look at the two.

Hard Copy to Digital Scanning

This is the classic definition of digital scanning: taking a hard copy document, file, record, etc., scanning the document using a hardware scanner, and creating an electronic copy of the record. Traditional digital formats include PDFs, TIFs, and JPGs, although there are various other deliverables available. 

An example of a hard copy scanning project would be scanning your organization’s explanation of benefits (EOB) records into an electronic format so you can utilize the information and dispose of the paper files.

Digital-to-Digital Conversion

The lesser known sibling of hard copy to digital scanning is the digital-to-digital conversion method. This type of conversion involves taking already-digital images and transferring them to another location, or extracting data from the images for use in another way. 

An example of a digital transfer is exporting digital images and data from an old and outdated document management system and importing them into your new electronic health record management system.

An example of a data extraction would be if you had tens of thousands of patient files and documents in a digital system, but you wanted to utilize certain aspects of the documents for auditing. A digital conversion of this sort would be to analyze the digital records, extract the relevant information, and apply the data in a way that benefited the operations of your office.

Why Go Forward With A Digital Conversion?

With all of the information you’ve read above, the question still remains: why should I go ahead with a digital conversion project? And the answer in the end is: it depends and is ultimately up to you!

Here’s a recap of benefits to digital scanning and conversion:

  • rapid searching and locating of records

  • free up your employee’s time by not having them do internal document conversion

  • increase in security by adding data-driven permissions and accessibility controls

  • get rid of cumbersome hard copy records

  • increase data visibility and insight through information extraction and analysis

  • centralize records for simple access by moving away from legacy data systems

Your Health And Medical Records Combined With BMI’s Digital Conversion Solutions

Our secure document scanning and electronic health record (EHR) management solutions help healthcare providers and insurance companies speed medical record processing time, increase patient satisfaction and facilitate HIPAA compliance. How do we do this?

First, we make sure our security measures are up to the task. Our facilities are not shared with any other entities, they’re remotely monitored 24/7, and feature tight secure access that meets Federal-level NIST SP 800-53 guidelines.

Our staff is trained in HIPAA compliance, and our document conversion procedures designed to conform to the paper and data requirements of HIPAA regulations.

BMI maintains Business Associates Agreements with clients whose electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) is subject to HIPAA regulations.

Whether you need medical record scanning and data entry services, HCFA 1500 claims processing, or electronic health records (EHR) and document hosting, we can help with your organization’s specific needs.

Next Steps

Reach out to us today! Click the “Get Your Quote” button below, fill out the form, and we’ll quickly reply to you to discuss your project.

Further Reading

Here are three additional articles that we recommend for you:

“Choosing A Partner For Your Secure Scanning Project” provides some guidance on what to look for when you’re researching and choosing a company to scan your records. Suggestions include physical security, digital security, and certifications and credentials.

“Document Scanning & Redaction” is a guide to digital record redaction, or removing sensitive data. Since you’re working with data that includes personal information, redaction might be something you’re looking for in addition to digitization.

“How Do I Access My Records During My Conversion Project?” gives you an overview of how you’ll be able to get your files while they’re being digitized. If you’re concerned about your documents being out of your hands during a scanning project, this should alleviate some of your stress!