The Ethics of Responsible Document Management: How to Avoid Being a Non-Compliant Nightmare

Regulatory compliance is a huge concern for companies in many industries, but the cost of failing in compliance efforts can be an even higher concern. Penalties, fines, loss of business, loss of client confidence, and even outright theft of confidential financial information can quickly add up and take a heavy toll on your business.

Increasingly, document management strategies are found at the center of compliance efforts. Since so many of these regulations are targeted at ensuring security and privacy of personal information, having the proper strategy in place is crucial. Implementing a responsible approach to document management not only makes compliance easier, but also ensures that companies are adequately protecting their customers’ information.

Look no further than the healthcare industry to get an idea of the adverse effects of a poor document management strategy. According to research from Protenus and DataBreaches.net, more than 5.6 million Americans experienced a medical records breach in 2017.

Recently, Arkansas-based software provider MedEvolve experienced a data breach that exposed the information of 200,000 patients. Tabor Orthopedics in Tennessee was hacked, leaving its patients exposed to potential identity theft. Children’s Mercy Hospital in Missouri was the target of a phishing attack that exposed the health records of 60,000 patients. The hospital is now the subject of a class action lawsuit. And massive health insurance company, Anthem, had a breach in 2015 that exposed 80 million patient records.

According to a survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute in 2016, half of all healthcare organizations had little or no confidence in their ability to detect the full scope of patient data loss or theft, and half were unsure if they could sufficiently prevent or detect unauthorized patient data access or theft.

The threat of a data breach and its subsequent fallout are a driving force in the growth of the medical document management market. Research firm HTF expects the market to grow at a CAGR of 15.5 percent from 2016 to 2023, reaching $789.9 million.

Secure Document Management

Additionally, document management solutions are the only way to address these security and compliance issues, while also giving organizations more visibility into where documents are, who is using them, and whether or not they’ve been compromised.

Effective document management can help lock down documents and protect all the data flowing into an organization by combining both paper and digital document streams.

By digitizing paper documents as soon as they arrive at a facility, organizations can better manage and track information. In addition, this allows organizations to reduce the possibility that the paper document will be lost, misfiled or compromised.

This process can provide significant savings when it comes to administrative costs because documents can be centrally stored and accessed without having to physically move them to other departments and store them in a file cabinet. Most document management solutions also provide functionality that can allow companies to see who has viewed or signed these digitized documents.

This approach to digital document management also makes it easier and less costly to access and retrieve documents at a later time. There’s no more searching through full filing cabinets, cluttered desk drawers, or bulging boxes. In addition, documents are more secure because you can internally track which employees have viewed the documents using sign-in credentials. This is an important feature, as the number of internal data breaches increase.

In fact, document access can be limited or controlled internally more easily when using a digital document management approach. Applying permissions to the documents can ensure information security and make it easier for external auditors to confirm you are following regulations or best practices.

In some industries, allowing certain types of employees to view particular types of content can lead to violations or penalties. Permission-based access greatly curtails those problems and helps ensure customer or patient privacy.

Advanced document management also makes it easier to manage the metadata associated with documents and files. This not only makes it easier to search for and locate files, but also can be used to classify data for regulatory and legal purposes. Accurate meta tagging – which can be automated using document scanning and management solutions – can greatly relieve the information gathering burden of an audit and help organizations gauge their own compliance internally.

While there is a cost to deploying new document management technology, the costs of a failed compliance audit or a data breach are even higher. According to Ponemon’s research from 2017, the average cost of a data breach is now $3.86 billion, with an average cost per record of $148. In the healthcare space, where organizations face penalties under HIPAA regulations, fines can range from a few hundred dollars per violation to upwards of $50,000 per violation, depending on the circumstances.

Responsible document management approaches can help companies avoid these costs, and protect their clients.

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