Electronic filing systems are online storage software systems that allow users to upload, share, and manage their files and documents. Businesses and organizations use them to store and share important information internally. Of course, electronic filing systems are also appropriate for personal use.
Electronic filing systems allow users to upload their files and documents into a central repository, which can be a cloud database or a facility-based server with internet access. The information can then be accessed by authorized users from anywhere in the world. These documents can conveniently be organized into different folders and categories, making it easier for users to find the files they need.
Most electronic filing systems come with security features that allow administrators to control who has access to which files and folders to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.
Long term care EHRs, meanwhile, offer even more advanced technology to nursing homes and similar facilities. Not only does long term care software have the capabilities of stand-along electronic filing systems, but it also has the following capabilities:
- Centralized cloud storage for all of a facility’s resident information including—but not limited to—medical records, financial documents, and employee files
- Remote access by authorized users from any location with internet access
- Organization of files and documents into folders and categories for easy retrieval
- Security features that restrict access to certain files and folders
- Long term care specific clinical modules that contain resident assessment information, care plans, and progress notes
- Nursing home and assisted living specific financial modules that track resident billing information and Medicaid reimbursement rates
If an administrator is looking to adopt a long term care software with electronic filing capabilities in their facility, they must first consider:
- Their budget
- The software’s learning curve
- The number of staff members at their facility
An electronic filing system in a long term care EHR can greatly improve efficiency by providing a central repository for all of the facility’s important information. Of course, that depends on selecting the right software. Hence, one should always demo the different long term care software providers to ensure they are getting the best EHR for their facility.
8 Helpful Tips for Document Storage and Retrieval in Electronic Filing Systems
Document storage and retrieval is an essential part of care in any long term care facility’s processes, as resident records need to be saved upon admission into the facility, and point of care documentation needs to be accurately stored and retrieved when needed. Electronic filing systems can be a great way to keep track of important documents if one observes these best practices:
1. Create Folders in a Logical Hierarchy
When creating folders in an electronic filing system, be sure to nest them in a logical order. For example, create a main “Resident Records” folder and then create sub-folders for each resident. This hierarchical structure will make it easier for staff to find specific files later on when they are needed.
2. Nest Folders Within Folders
Nesting folders go hand-in-hand with creating a logical hierarchy of folders. For example, if a staff member has created folders for residents, they should also nest folders within each individual resident’s folder. For example, create sub-folders for “Admission Records,” “Care Plans,” and “Discharge Records.” This will help keep all important documents organized and easy to find.
It is worth noting that the best nursing home EHRs automatically nest resident information into folders by providing an easy-to-use, user-backed interface for nurses and other staff. This means MDS nurses need only be concerned with inputting accurate resident information into the EHR and not with the structure and order of the nested folders.
3. Adhere to the Two File Naming Conventions
A descriptive naming convention uses descriptive words or phrases to identify the contents of a file. Some best practices to follow when using this naming convention include:
- Naming all files consistently
- Using short but descriptive file names
- Avoiding special characters
- Avoiding periods and spaces and instead using capital letters and underscores
- Including a version number
- Using date format ISO 8601: YYYYMMDD
A systematic naming convention uses a systematic approach to identify the contents of a file. Some best practices to follow when using a systematic naming convention include:
- Using the numbers 0-9 and lowercase letters of the Latin alphabet (a-z)
- Avoiding all punctuation marks other than underscores and hyphens
- Beginning each file name with a two or three letter character acronym that represents the organization’s name, followed by a two or three letter character acronym representing the department name if applicable
- Following the organization and department acronyms with a short description of the file
- Restricting file names to 31 characters (this includes the file extension)
- Using a period to separate the file name and the file extension
4. Be Specific When Naming Files
Being as specific as possible will help ensure that all staff in a facility can easily find the files they are looking for when needed. For example, if a staff member is looking for a resident’s care plan, they should be able to easily find it by searching for a resident’s “care plan” in the electronic filing system.
Specificity in naming also makes it easier for other staff members in a long term care facility to know what type of content a file contains, without having to open the file, thus improving workflow efficiency.
5. File a Document When You Create It
When creating any type of document in electronic filing systems, be sure to file it right away. This will ensure that all documents are well organized and easy to find when they are needed. Filing documents as soon as they are created also helps to prevent the loss of crucial documentation, which can lead to costly delays in care or penalties for failure to comply with regulations.
6. Order Your Frequently Used Files
When using electronic filing systems, it is important to order your files in a way that makes sense for your long term care facility and team to ensure that all staff can easily find the files they need, when they need them.
For example, if you have a lot of residents with the same surname, you may want to order your files alphabetically according to their forename. Or you may have a lot of residents who are discharged around the same time and choose to order your files by the discharge date. Or a certain file may be used often, so you decide to add the number “1” at the beginning of the file name so it appears at the top of a file list.
7. Clear Out Unused Files
Over time, nursing home software systems can become cluttered with unused files. To help keep your system organized, it is important to clear out unused files on a regular basis. Unused files can be deleted or moved to an archive folder if they need to be kept for legal or regulatory purposes.
8. Back Up Your Files
It is important to back up your electronic files on a regular basis in case of system failure or other unforeseen circumstances. There are a number of ways to back up files, including:
- Copying files to an external hard drive or thumb drive
- Uploading files to a cloud storage service
- Emailing files to yourself or another staff member
Of course, for long term care facilities with large amounts of data, the above options may not be feasible. Hence, it is always best for one to ask their long term care software provider about their data hosting and backup services.
Contact us here if you would like to test drive our long term care EHR that comes with the most advanced electronic filing capabilities in the industry.
The Best Document Organizer for Nursing Homes
Identifying the best document organizer among the various electronic filing systems options on the market may seem difficult. But an easy first step is to filter out the options that are not designed with the needs of Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs), assisted living, and other long term care facilities in mind. That may mean very little added efficiency after moving on from a manual filing system, which can be frustrating seeing that switching from paper to electronic records can be a bit pricy.
You will want to select an EHR that comes equipped with document storage and retrieval and is cost-efficient as well. You should also look at review sites and find a vendor with a good number of five-star reviews on Capterra. The long term care software system that you choose should eliminate the need for physical document storage. Ideally, it will also come equipped with eDocuments, eMAR and eTAR (eCharting), which allow caregivers to:
- Import, view, and delete files without interrupting their workflows
- Access files with other users simultaneously
- Link files to progress notes, care plan interactions, and orders
- Import resident information from the first contact and maintain it for use after registration
- Import multiple file types to a resident’s EMR
- Handle PRN Orders
By using such software, staff and administrators can create and maintain accurate documentation while focusing on what matters: providing quality care and quality of life to their residents.
The Benefits of Electronic Filing Systems
We have defined what electronic filing systems are and mentioned tips administrators and nurses can follow to ensure that their system is effective and efficient. Also, we have mentioned guidelines for selecting an electronic filing system. As we conclude, it is worth mentioning some of the benefits that electronic filing systems offer nursing homes:
- Accurate and organized databases
- Instant access to resident data regardless of location
- Increased workplace productivity
- Reliable backup and recovery of data
Such benefits make it clear that any facility still on paper should strongly consider moving to electronic records and adopting an EHR that has electronic filing capabilities.