The legal field has always been centered around paper documents and change has come slowly in this field. New laws and new practices provide for electronic options with records to be used during discovery, in mediation, and at trial. Whether they are medical, billing, radiology, employment, phone, or any other type of records, there are several advantages to retrieving and filing those records in electronic format.
Electronic format can be an admissible form in Texas courts when filed properly. In fact, some providers have already stopped producing originals as a policy and more are sure to follow with many providers choosing copy services to manage their records. Most copy services are managing this data electronically. As copy services become more and more popular of an option for providers to manage their records, the legal field will continue to see requests completed electronically without the need for the original executed document.
There are significant cost savings associated with paperless records. The production costs associated with paper documents is significantly higher than documents produced electronically. History has shown that when requesting records in paper format the costs can be exorbitant due to a per page charge. Whereas when requests are made electronically, the standard is that of one charge regardless of the page count.
This system allows for the cost savings to continue throughout the process. Storage of paper records has always been a problem and constitutes large amounts of office space whereas digital records stored in the cloud require minimal space and minimal costs. Less paper to buy up front for printing and less paper documents to destroy at the end when the documents are no longer needed.
A harder to define cost savings associated with paperless records vs. paper is productivity. Time is money. The ease and speed at which electronic documents can be shared produces less downtime. In any operation, increased speed of information and increased speed of decision making, equals cost savings.
Turnaround time for any major deadline has always been a problem. Moving paper documents to experts, making paper copies to share internally, shipping documents between co-counsel, and even lost mail have all contributed to this problem. This paradigm has now been shifted. With the click of a button, custodians can upload records to a portal and experts can send electronic records to experts or between attorneys instantly. No waiting for documents and no risk of lost mail.
Medical providers have led the way in electronic records management. Due to the volume of records, finding efficiency in costs and resources required was vital to medical records custodians and the facilities that employ them. They found that electronic data management lowered costs and reduced the resources needed for the management of their large amount of data. It will reduce your costs and need for resources as well. Time and money are saved in the request process, production process, delivery process, and filing process. Avoiding mail time with paper documents is possible and advisable in all steps to record retrieval.
An added benefit of a paperless records policy is the application to a green initiative for the firm. Many potential clients have a green initiative and look for partners who also have one. A practice producing less paper waste, less plastic ink and toner cartridges, and less demand on the forestry industry could certainly promote itself as green conscious. For many potential clients this could be the difference in choosing your practice over another.
Moving to a paperless records policy allows more to be done with fewer resources. There are many software options that lower the labor needed for management of these records. Not having paper documents around the office make HIPPA Compliance less cumbersome to staff by reducing process responsibilities. Ensuring all files are under lock and key, not laying in the open for non-employees to view and disposed of properly are tasks not required with electronic records. Even analyzing electronic documents takes less work hours if you utilize Optical Character Recognition or OCR.
This search feature can take a user directly to any point of the document by key word search allowing for quick reference. Storage of documents electronically allows team members 24/7 access to work with the document from endless work environments, including home or when at court. With this type of access there is no down time due to inaccessibility of the documents when traveling or away from the office.
Whether you chose to use firm resources or third parties in the record retrieval process you will save money, time, and productivity. Electronic records can be admissible and used at all stages of a trial. Although an electronic records policy may not be right for every practice it is for most. In 2020, a paperless environment should be considered by all, the legal field included.