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Records indexing priorities

November 3, 2015
records indexing questions

Records indexing makes searching for and accessing your information quicker and easier.

David Reagler on records indexing

We get two main questions about records indexing. The first is, “what is records indexing?” The quick answer is: think of indexing as creating a trail or map to make finding your records easier and faster.

The next question we hear is customers asking for clarification on how to go about indexing, such as, “should we go with carton-level records indexing, file-level records indexing, or scanning?”

That’s a good question, but it doesn’t have a completely simple answer. Each one of these techniques has its place in a well-managed records system. Which one you use and when you use it depends on depends what information is contained in these records, how important this information is to your organization, and how often you need to access the information.

Understanding the differences in records indexing

Carton level indexing

Carton level records indexing is the capturing the information typically written on the outside of the carton, such as: Accounts Payable Invoices –“ A” through “Dec”, 2007, destroy date 2015.

 File level indexing

File-level records indexing includes the carton level information plus information on each file in the box, such as Acme Pest Control, account number 2303, Best Pizza, account number 4567, Charles Tire Repair, account number 9876, and other information as needed.

Scanning

With scanning, you make images of the listed invoices, along with other supporting documentation kept in the file such as bills of lading, copies of the checks, debit memos, and other relevant paperwork.

The answer is to prioritize

For me, here’s how I prioritize

  1. How often do I access these records? Hourly, daily, monthly, every six months, yearly or on demand.
  2. How important are these records? If I lost them, what would be the impact on my business? Devastating, serious, major inconvenience, minor inconvenience, or a slight bother?
  3. How voluminous are these records? Am I drowning in the paper these records are written on?
  4. How long do I need to keep these records? Months, years, or decades or forever.

Priority levels

Paper records

Records created on paper, that I rarely access, but need to store for compliance reasons or peace of mind, are prime candidates for carton-level indexing. I make sure that the destruction date is entered in our records management system so that once there is no need to store them, they can be disposed of properly, with a full audit trail.

Important records

Extremely important records such as contracts, insurance claims, board room minutes, and tax returns, are prime candidates for scanning, but I often store the originals if the retention is longer than 10 years. I want instant access, but demand automated destruction, once the retention period has been met.

Personal health and required records

I strongly recommend file-level indexing for personal health information and other regulated types of records that I am required to keep, but still don’t access on a daily basis.  For instance, clinics often have charts for former patients. To me, it doesn’t make financial sense to scan these charts. The vast majority of these patients will likely never visit the clinic again. However, if we enter the patient name, medical record number, and date of birth, we can instantly find these patients when needed. Then the clinic can re-enter this information into their electronic health records system.

Remember these three things: Prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize

With records management, we always have to prioritize. We have limited folks to do the work. We have limited resources to pay for the work. And we have limited time in which to do the work. So we prioritize.

Thanks,

David Reagler

 

 

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Arkansas Records Management is a professional service company based here in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We serve organizations throughout the state and our staff eats, sleeps, and breathes files, indexed fields, retention schedules, and audit trails. As records become more and more complex, and the task of properly managing your firm's documents is a key and often overwhelming task.

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