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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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.