Scanning documents is one of the first things done when using electronic document management software to improve your work processes. A major dilemma faced by small business owners is: whether to destroy paper based documents or to retain them; and if retain them, then for how long?
Once you have converted the paper based documents to electronic form, you should segregate these paper documents into 4 groups:
- Documents required in paper form by law; e.g. contracts signed physically.
- Documents that you need in paper form as part of your business operations; e.g. typed manuscripts sent to a publisher.
- Documents that you will definitely not need again in paper form ever again.
- Documents that you do not need in physical form but retain them for a buffer period of say around 3 months from the date of scanning. This should done if you believe your company’s document retention policy may be revised in the near future, or that other factors are likely to change. At the end of the 3-month period, these documents will move into one of the other three groups above.
Documents in group 3 above should be disposed of using safe and lawful means. Eventually, except for the first group, paper based documents in all the other groups would most likely end up being destroyed. The H2E-HIPAA DRAFT Guidance Document on the Destruction of Confidential Paper recommends that “all paper be recycled, or shredded then recycled to ensure proper destruction and minimize environmental impact!” They do not recommend burning, partly because it has more negative environmental and health considerations than recycling.
Every organization should develop and draft a document retention and disposal policy in order that every document is managed in a pre-specified way, for the benefit of the organization and its employees and customers; and for society as a whole.
Are you ready to switch to electronic document management and dispose of paper based documents? Get this free white paper to find out if you are.
Read this article to learn more about Paperless Office Software.