“What is your opinion of documentation being kept electronically rather than in hard copy format? We will have things organized and easy to find and search, but I don’t want to go through the process of electronic files if a surveyor is going to request hard copies.”
My understanding is most authorities will accept electronic documentation provided it meets all of the requirements for documentation. Many AHJs have specific requirements concerning what’s included in the documentation, such as:
Testing & Inspection- Documentation.
Unless otherwise stated, testing, inspection and maintenance documentation must include, at the minimum, the following information:
- Name of individual performing the activity
- Affiliation of the individual performing the activity
- The signature of the individual performing the activity
- Activity name
- Date(s) (month/day/year) that activity was performed
- The frequency that is required of the activity
- The NFPA code or standard which requires the activity to be performed
- The results of the activity, such as ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’
An electronic signature typically would be acceptable in lieu of a hand-written signature. That usually means the technician performing the work would have to enter the data in order to create the electronic signature. Most authorities would not accept an electronic signature from a data-entry person in lieu of the technician performing the work. Most authorities also would not accept a data-entry person issuing an electronic signature of another individual, such as a jpg picture of a signature. However, pdf copies of documentation with all of the above requirements is acceptable. Essentially, it would be similar to a photo-copy of a report.
There are stories of the data-entry person not being present during the survey and they were the only one with the passcodes to access the data, or with the knowledge on how to retrieve the data. I also witnessed a situation where weekly reports were turned into a clerical person to enter the data into the computer. The clerical person allowed the reports to accumulate and the data was not entered during the week that the test/inspection was performed. The data-entry person used the ‘default’ date stamp provided by the software platform when the data was entered, which effectively said the test/inspection was not performed during the required time-period.
It is difficult to attach follow-up reports to electronic copies, such as ILSM assessments or repair work orders to a particular LSC deficiency. With paper files, they can easily be inserted into a binder or a folder.
Bottom line: Electronic documentation is permitted, but most hospitals realize the risks do not out-weigh the rewards. I am not a fan of electronic documentation because I have witnessed the problems with using them. But as with all technology, time is needed to work out the problems and make improvements. I’m an old man, and perhaps the younger generation has already implemented solutions to this problem.
I welcome your feedback on the use of electronic documentation.