What are the Best Practices for Records Management?

If you work in an industry that handles a substantial number of documents - especially documents containing protected personal information or protected health information - it's important that your records management practices reduce risk for both the company and its stakeholders. Some of the best practices for records management include: 

  • storing paper documents securely, both while you still need frequent access to them and when they are inactive but must still be retained
  • consider electronic document storage to better track and control who has access to your documents
  • shred documents according to a records retention schedule, ensuring documents that are no longer necessary to retain have been securely shredded by a certified vendor


Store Hard Copies Securely

If you must maintain paper documents, those that contain confidential information should be kept behind double lock and key - typically in a locked file cabinet in a locked office or document storage room. Organizations often end up with more records than they have space to lock away, especially as these documents sit in their retention period, no longer referenced but too soon to destroy.

In these cases, records management companies can provide secure records storage, so you can trust that your documents are stored according to best practices and strict industry guidelines until they've reached their destruction date.


Transition to Electronic Document Storage

Transitioning to electronic document storage offers a number of benefits: 

  • it automates the tracking of destruction dates and the actual destruction of documents
  • it gives you real-time control over who has access to your documents (and which documents, if you'd like to identify role-based access for each file)
  • it leaves an audit trail so you can quickly see who has accessed a particular record and when, which is important in heavily regulated industries 
  • it reduces your carbon footprint - you use less and waste less when you choose electronic document storage

While many business owners are overwhelmed by digitization, full-service records management companies can take on the workload of scanning in paper documents and ensuring your team has the access they need. You can sit back, relax, and reap the rewards when the digitization project is finished and you're able to move to electronic document storage.


 Contact Shred America for Routine Shredding 

Finally, best practice involves implementing a records retention policy that includes annual document destruction. Your policy should address: 

  1. how documents are stored securely during their retention period
  2. the minimum retention period for each kind of record that exists within your organization
  3. how records are destroyed when they reach the destruction date
  4. what qualifications a vendor must have in order to destroy records for your company

You should also have a policy that covers the destruction of old technology/hard drives to ensure the protection of your company, employees, and clients. 

Once you've written a records retention policy, you'll begin the process of putting the policy into practice. At the end of each year, you'll go through your records to archive those that are not ready to be destroyed but that no longer need to be readily available for daily referencing. Each file should be marked with a destruction date based on the retention period specified in your policy, and once a year the files that have reached their destruction date should be professionally shredded.

To learn more about off-site document storage, electronic document management, or secure document shredding, visit Shred America today.