One of the first and most important decisions to be made when sending your records offsite for storage is how to identify them. The decision of archiving your records with box-level information or by indexing every file should be made based on criteria specific to your business requirements. For example, when you or someone in your organization requests records, are they actually looking for a particular file or document, or are there several file folders within a box that are needed? What is the rule rather than the exception for each department? How active are these files? How critical is the level of security and confidentiality associated with a group of records?
There are some industries in which the decision is clear. Healthcare, finance and insurance organizations work with individual files each and every day. The need to access sets of records based on date ranges or record type is rare for these types of organizations. The information is extremely sensitive and must always be readily accessible. A patient or client’s file is often needed for litigation or an insurance claim.
For other types of businesses, and even for some departments within the same company, this level of detailed records management may not be necessary. However, if you have been unable to access needed files on more than one occasion, or find that you must often search in multiple boxes before finding the file you need, then it’s time to take a look at how you are doing your archiving.
Utilizing File Level Indexing
When you index your records by file, a unique barcode is assigned to each one. This barcode enables a file to be located using the criteria you provided. The barcode will also track every movement of every file, establishing an unbroken chain of custody.
Individual files can be indexed with as many or as few fields of information as you require to locate them. The most important piece of information to capture is the unique identifier. This may be a medical record number or an account number. In some cases, a Social Security number may be used, particularly where records are filed by name.
There are several ways to get this information into a records management database. You can index your files at your location and send the records management services provider a spreadsheet containing the information. The provider can do the archiving for you. Or, if you already enter this information into an internal, perhaps industry-specific database, there’s no need to duplicate your efforts.
Nearly all programs enable you to extract a file or report and transfer the information electronically. Even when you are maintaining this information internally, it is good practice to have it replicated in your partner’s database.