Paperless Record Keeping: 5 Reasons to Make the Change

Have you considered going paperless at your practice? Maintaining a paper-based record keeping system can be more costly than you might realize. Practices using paper records must maintain a significant amount of physical storage space, pay for printing supplies and equipment, and deal with time inefficiencies from staff searching for misplaced files and writing out patient notes by hand. Don't forget the risk of losing information completely if the file is inadvertently lost or destroyed, or the fact that younger clients are increasingly concerned with patronizing eco-friendly businesses.

Not ready to commit? Here are five reasons your practice should say goodbye to paper records:

1. Fewer Mistakes

Paperless practices tend to have fewer mistakes in their files, since employees don't face legibility issues while reading or transcribing coworkers' handwritten notes. Also, there is greater accountability with paperless record keeping, since most systems log a record of which users enter or change data.

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2. More Consistent Care

Going paperless tends to result in more consistent care. Paper records increase the chances of a mistake negatively impacting the practice and/or the patient. When care or required services are recorded on paper, a necessary item could easily be overlooked, or a treatment might be administered but not logged. In the former scenario, the patient's health suffers due to a missed service, while in the latter case the practice is not compensated for care and suffers a financial loss due to the charges not being properly recorded.

3. Greater Productivity

Paperless practices benefit from higher levels of productivity. Paper-based practices lose hours of staff time when files are misplaced, as the staff must search for the lost items. This loss of staff time is virtually eliminated when records are digitized and can be accessed by anyone with just a few clicks. Typing also tends to be much faster than writing notes by hand, so that is an additional time-saving measure.

4. Increased Revenue

Going paperless can increase revenue since it increases the number of charges that are properly captured. You can also have a paperless record keeping system automatically flag records for upcoming tests and refills due, so those services are not missed during the appointment. Paperless practices also save on printing supplies, the cost of staff time lost to the paper chase and the expense of square footage devoted to file storage.

5. Information Security

Paperless records can easily be backed up on external storage devices to prevent potential loss. Paper-based records could be lost entirely in the event of a fire or natural disaster, or simply by being misplaced or accidentally destroyed.

After making the decision to go paperless, the first step is to do some research and make a plan to ensure a smooth transition. You'll need to budget for the staff time and IT costs involved with setting up the system and digitizing existing paper records. Ensure you have sufficient equipment (tablets or computers) so there won't be delays with staff waiting for access. Consider how and when staff training can start, and the timeline for the changeover. Realistically, you should expect a short term impact on productivity during the transition, but the practice will see significant benefits in the long run.

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Mary Hope Kramer
Animal Industry Writer

Mary Hope Kramer has more than 15 years of professional writing experience. She worked as a small-animal veterinary assistant while completing her BS degree in animal science at Berry College. She was also named top student in the Kentucky Equine Management Internship and completed the Summer Experience in Equine Management at the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, New York. After graduation, she focused on gaining professional experience in the equine industry. 

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