Read all about it: Paper documents are still relevant

It’s happened again: another high-profile, high-volume paper documents data breach. In July, UCLA Health System revealed that hackers may have compromised the sensitive information of as many as 4.5 million patients. (That’s nearly equal to half the population of Los Angeles County!)

Businesses that use paper documents breathe a sigh of relief when they hear news about electronic breaches. While electronic records have taken their permanent place (ask any HIPAA-compliant business), many companies shouldn’t operate without paper documents.

Hold on, loose-leaf.

While the federal HIPAA law mandates electronic records for healthcare-related companies, any business can use paper documents as back-up. Managed correctly, paper is a reliably secure data backup medium.

Other, non-HIPAA businesses should continue to rely on paper documents for their operations. Here’s why:

  • In more heavily regulated fields (law, financial services and life sciences, to name three), paper documents may be required in some instances. Often, it’s to prove a document was signed in ink.
  • Hard copies may be a stipulation of a contract. Or a client may expect your company to keep a paper copy.
  • A company simply may be unable to afford scanning all its files or switching to electronic records systems.
  • A company may deem any form of electronic records management as too risky. (“Why should I go electronic when even the US government can get hacked?”)

Then there are the little, daily tasks that–for lots of us–are better on paper:

  • Note-taking in meetings. Key clicks can be distracting to others, and paper gives you the freedom to write comfortably, your way.
  • Note-taking in interviews. Typing into a tablet or laptop takes attention away from the interviewee—it’s like a third person in the room.
  • Brainstorming sessions. Nothing beats paper for sketching, doodling and taping ideas up to the wall (that won’t be erased on a whiteboard).
  • Calendars. Paper planners are relevant in the age of smartphone calendar apps!

Clearly, paper is still relevant! Any business is free to use paper documents to the extent that laws and regulations permit.

“People read paper.”

Neuroscientific studies have indicated that reading comprehension is higher on paper than it is on screen. In other words, people skim screens, but they read paper.

Now think about how “skim vs. read” applies to your work. Suppose you need to closely review a dense, 30-page contract.

If you can print it out and read it in a comfortable location without distractions, then you can focus exclusively on the document. You can flip easily back and forth through the pages. You can add any markings you like.

Try to review that same 30-page contract on screen. Your poor eyes won’t last long, for starters. Stir in the inevitable distractions of emails and instant messages. In all likelihood, you simply won’t do as good a job.

Now that you are using paper, it is important to know how to manage paper documents the smart way.

When you print out any sensitive information, you’re creating risk: There’s always a chance it could fall into the wrong hands. You have an ongoing business obligation to manage and minimize your risk exposure.

An established records management firm can help you put leading-edge security practices that top companies use to manage paper documents. Like: Active records storage.

Active Records Storage is like the best of both worlds: You store your files securely off-site, and your records management company delivers them to your office as you need them. Active Records Storage reduces the volume of documents sitting around idle in your office, thus reducing your risk of a paper data breach.

Shredding Awareness Education. One proven way to keep documents from going astray is a “Shred Everything” policy. Shredding Awareness takes that idea further, to create a corporate culture that makes shredding documents as natural as tossing away a sandwich wrapper.

Follow a Records Retention Schedule. In other words, don’t hold on to any files—whether stored offsite or onsite—any longer than you’re required to.

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