In my previous article, I indicated that during the past few years there has been an explosive growth in the amount of data being created and stored. To better manage this immense and constantly increasing stream of information, organizations in virtually all industries are hiring experts to help them convert physical records to electronic format. Managing electronic records is a topic for another discussion; however, this blog will concentrate on a few more elements to consider when crafting an RFP for converting the media of paper into electronic records.
In this piece we are calling attention to three additional elements to consider for enterprises that want to image existing and future paper documents. Read Part 1 of this series here.
Critical Element 4: The Importance of Defining Post-Conversion Requirements
Post-Conversion requirements can have a significant impact on the overall cost of a conversion project depending on retention requirements. If your organization authorizes the electronic rendering as an official record [per your records retention policy], the most cost effective course of action would be to shred the physical documents. This will allow your business to avoid additional fees for shipping and labor costs for document handling and storage. Shredding of physical documents will come with a certification of destruction that you can retain for legal purposes.
Retaining physical records can introduce additional cost, but sometimes is necessary per your organizational business needs. If you are going to retain the physical documents, you will need to determine whether to keep the records in a scan ready state [scan state] or return the physical documents to their original state [de-prep/reassemble]. Returning the documents to their original state would entail replacing staple for staple, paperclip for paperclip, as these fasteners would have been removed during the conversion process. Imaging vendors will need to know your requirements and create a cost model that corresponds to this need.
Critical Element 5: How to Understand and Define Quality Control Requirements.
No imaging vendor can guarantee 100% accuracy. Industry acceptance rates will vary from 98% to 99.99% and should be defined by the document owner. Errors will occur and defining the threshold for error tolerance is extremely critical to understanding [or even being able to properly evaluate] vendor proposals. By defining an error rate in the creation of an RFP, you are enabling the imaging vendor to predict the quality control processes needed for the conversion of your records and then account for the associated labor costs. Various levels of image and metadata review, quality control, and audits can be introduced or scaled to the overall production cycle and will have a direct impact on the price per image a vendor will charge. As an example of this, let me highlight a specific area of production: the image quality control [review of scanned images]. Most imaging vendors will provide two levels of Image QC during the rendering of electronic images; standard image quality control and some form of advanced image quality control, which are defined as follows:
- Standard Image Quality Control: Performed as the physical document is scanned. As the scanning occurs the image appears on the screen in front of a scanning operator. The scanning operator is trained to quickly identify quality issues with the image such as skewing, streaking, speckling, double feeds and the overall clarity of an image. If an issue with image quality is found, the image is corrected/re-scanned on the fly.
- Advanced Image Quality Control: An additional workstep above and beyond standard QC. This work step includes 100% physical page comparison to the digital image it produced. It is a page-by-page verification process that ensures each and every image is verified against its physical counterpart.
Defining your error threshold will allow the imaging vendor to determine what percentage of documents; 5 percent, 25 percent, 50 percent or even 100 percent should be routed to the advanced QC step to meet your error threshold requirements. Due to the fact that labor is one of the largest cost items in conversion services, it is imperative to define the tolerance your organization has for error. A good example would be a set of medical records detailing a patient’s medical information. A missing page or inaccurately coded piece of information could have immediate, serious medical consequences compared to an incorrect invoice, where a wrong payment could simply be rectified on next month’s bill.
Critical Element 6: Impact of Project Duration and Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
There two primary types of conversion efforts, day forward [front end] and backfile/finite [back end].
- Day Forward, also known as “front-end scanning,” consists of scanning services in perpetuity. A good example of this type of effort would be AP Invoice scanning services. Each day documents are received, scanned, and exported.
- Backfile/finite, also known as “backend scanning,” consists of a fixed, predefined volume. A good example of this would be 1,000 boxes of expired contract files. This may be a set of records that need to be retained but are not actively a part of daily business operations.
All imaging service centers have a maximum capacity throughput per day, week or month. For day forward efforts, you will need to provide the daily average volume, as well as peaks and valleys during a defined length of time. This will allow for the imaging vendor to properly allocate resources to perform the services and maintain SLA commitments regardless of fluctuation in volumes.
With back-end scanning, you should define the length of time you are willing to allow for your records to be in possession of the imaging vendor. Most vendors will allow for priority pulls in the event a file needs to be retrieved, however, you should define your expectations as to how many files on average may be pulled on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, and what your required turnaround time should be once a file is requested. There is a cost associated with these activities.