Are Digital Records Better Than Paper?

The Original EHR Prototype

Video Managing Client Files: Digital vs Paper (Video duration: 1:55)

At it’s simplest, digital record-keeping could simply mean a Word doc, Excel sheet or PDF that you’ve saved on your computer, tablet, phone, thumb drive or other type of digital storage device. There are advantages to digital record-keeping even at this elementary level. For example, with digital records, you no longer have to contend with bulging filing cabinets, finding adequate long-term storage, or shredding – all of which are factors with paper health records. Additionally, it’s relatively easy to make backup copies of digital files to guard against some type of disaster, whereas making copies of paper records is costly, both in terms of time and money and also, effectively doubles the number of filing cabinets or other physical storage space you need.

However, if you move beyond the Word doc level of digital record-keeping and start exploring practice management systems, the advantages become even more apparent. What gives practice management systems (also called EHRs or EMRs) their oomph is that they’re built using relational databases, which gives you the ability to filter. This means, as the cartoon suggests, that these kinds of programs are interactive. You can click a button and find out how many sessions you conducted in a certain time frame, how much you made, which clients still owe you money (including how much and for how long), which insurance payments are outstanding, which ones may have gotten hung up at the clearinghouse and why – the possibilities are endless.

Additionally, most (but not all) practice management systems have the ability to connect to insurance companies. This means, you can do all of your efiling in one place – you don’t have to go to each insurance company’s site to file. Depending on the particular system, you may also be able to get detailed information about where an insurance claim is in the payment process, retrieve ERAs and perform other time-consuming tasks you might normally do with the insurance company either over the phone or at their website.

All in all, maintaining digitial records, especially within a practice management system or EHR can save you both time and money and also tend to be safer than maintaining paper files.