Still Have Paper Records? It's Ok, You're Not Alone

April 24, 2019

Does your organization still use paper-based processes? Store paper in warehouses or file rooms? It’s ok, you aren’t alone - 55% of organizations are still using manual paper-based processes. 

More Organizations Than You Think Have Paper

Despite all of the available collaborative and productivity tools, high volumes of paper still exist in many organizations. In a recent survey, 66% of people reported that paper use in their organization wasn't declining - in fact, 42% said that paper use was actually increasing. 

Paper is still relevant for many business-related tasks and an integral component of workflows and transactions. In some instances, highly regulated industries such as legal and financial services even require the use of paper records in certain situations - a real ink signature on contracts are still preferable to digital signatures in certain cases.

There's also legacy paper to consider - for example, when hospitals are in the process of converting to an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system, there may be instances when both legacy paper and new electronic documents need to be managed under the same framework. In the pharmaceutical or energy industries, where mergers and acquisitions are common, companies often inherit paper records from other sources. Integrating these documents into a unified system is essential for information governance compliance.


Why Physical Records Management is Critical to Information Governance

Having a records management that includes paper records can be critical for proper information governance and compliance. Although laws can vary by state when it comes to defining the 'official' record (if digital format is acceptable or not), it's important to know what paper records are being stored, where they are located, and how long to keep them.

With the recently refreshed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements in the European Union (EU), companies must ensure that paper records adhere to its updated guidelines. There has even been an international push for additional data privacy laws, looking to the GDPR requirements for guidance. This can have significant implications, including hefty fines, if any paper records contain sensitive information such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI) and are not properly managed in a secure, audit-ready system.

For example, boxes of paper records containing patient records with private patient information resulted in an $800,000 penalty when left outside of a physician's residence. In another case, a former hospital employee was convicted of stealing medical records, compromising the data of 13,000 patients. If Personally identifiable information (PII) or Protected Health information (PHI) is compromised, massive fines can result.

In the financial sector, Bank of America faced litigation by misplacing bond records in early 2019 and were sued for breach of contact when they could not locate the requested records. Financial institutions can be subject to regulatory action and monetary damages with proper records management systems and policies aren't in place.

Just because you have paper records doesn't mean they need to live outside your records and information management system - there are modern ways to organize and automate how paper records are managed. 

Despite many organizations embarking on digitizing various line of business processes, paper records and physical records management are still a part of many organizations' overall information management. Investing in a records management system that governs both digital and paper records gives organizations an automated, electronic way to locate, track, and audit all of their important records and information.