Putting together a successful, safe, stable medical document archive that stands the test of time can be a tricky business. Organisations strapped for cash and floor space often attempt on-site storage as their first option, quickly filling storage units with hundreds of rarely used old paperwork.

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While this does save money in the short term, it also leaves vital records openly exposed to fraud, data loss, legal liabilities, and accidental damage. It's no solution for a growing practice creating thousands of confidential documents that need long-term retention, either. Here's what you should avoid when putting together your long-term medical archive.

1) Forgettable Storage

The first step in planning an efficient document archive is to make sure you know where everything is and where it will be, when it expires (under document retention guidelines), and what you're doing to ensure that critical information is carried along to the next generation.

A good, structured layout at the start will save you endless headaches. Some files will last for over a century (if necessary), so you must have a set, durable plan in place to catalogue them and identify their location. Assign compliance officers and keep short 'control' documents to hand that quickly outline the specifics of each stored batch. Make sure that any off-site, third-party storage is clearly outlined too, with named liaison officers.

2) Accidental Damage

Many companies only tend to think, at most, five years ahead. As a medical archive manager, you need to be far more proactive.

If you're dealing with paper and card documents, UV, humidity, excessive dryness, and ingress (e.g. wind, rain, snow) can all cause chronic document degradation to the point of collapse. Any archive space needs to be secure against the outside world, light-limited, and temperature controlled to ensure the absolute best standards of document care.

Take care of your digital storage, too. While easier to manage than legacy documents, physical media and hard drives are also vulnerable to failure. Multiple server back-ups and stored USB sticks can help you beat the challenges of time.

3) Poor Security and Surveillance Standards

Old medical records are a goldmine for unscrupulous criminals. With addresses, personal details, bank accounts, and potential blackmail material openly listed, they're often photographed and scanned rather than outright stolen when left in storage. Fraud, identity theft, and intimidation of former patients then result - often without you ever knowing why.

Avoid the risks of opportunistic thieves by placing your records behind locked, heavy doors, electronic verification systems, fenced-in perimeters, deadbolt, electronic locks, CCTV, guards and two-step authorisation. If you're dealing with digital material, invest in firewalls, virus protection, phishing training, and excellent network surveillance teams.

If you can't do all of this on-site, third-party remote storage and archival companies such as CAS, can take care of it for you. Our high-security, multi-perimeter storage facilities are monitored 24-7.

4) Inaccessible 'Dumps'

Even with the best security and environmental controls in the world, poor organisation can cause chaos. An uncategorised archive stored in random order can fast become completely unmanageable.
Make sure to set up suitable archive furniture (e.g. racks or spacers), storage boxes, and category dividers to stop your deposits from becoming an unstable, untenable mess, and to ensure you can locate individual records quickly if required.

5) A Lack of Authority

Who's really in control of your medical documents? Allowing open access to confidential paperwork risks data leaks and opens a path to opportunistic, inside criminality. A lack of a clear archival control and accountability can lead to ambiguity, avoidable mistakes, and confusion.

Make sure to assign a list of designated data protection personnel on a case-by-case basis. You don't want more eyes on your historic files than are strictly necessary. Training all your employees in basic data protection standards can help, too.

Find Out More

At CAS, we offer a range of secure managed solutions for medical documents. To discuss your storage needs and to find out more, please get in touch with one of our document storage specialists today.

Image source: Unsplash
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