Shifting to paperless school health records
Learn how Adobe can help you digitize important health forms, such as immunizations, physical exams, and medical release forms, and enable e-signatures to increase efficiency
By Chitra Mittha
Posted on 05-17-2021
Schools of all types, from K-12 through post-secondary education, collect and use a wide range of student health and medical information, from immunization records to allergies, regular medications, and health conditions that may affect participation in athletics. This results in a large collection of private and confidential information that is subject to a variety of privacy and lifecycle management regulations, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA).
Keeping student health data in electronic form provides many advantages, not least of which is better security and compliance with privacy regulations than paper documents can provide. Other key benefits include facilitating data collection, reducing duplication, controlling and auditing access, and expediting authorized release in an emergency. This article summarizes three different methods of digitalizing the student health information process then dives more deeply into how schools can do this with tools that they probably already have and use every day.
3 ways to digitalize school health records
There are three main methods for digitizing student health and medical records: modifying existing student information systems, purchasing software specifically designed for this purpose, or digitizing existing forms and processes.
Use existing education record systems
It may be possible to modify the student information system that you already use to include student health information. This option may require internal or vendor resources to add new fields, customize forms, and build out the security and auditing features necessary for regulatory compliance. Key benefits include:
- Centralized database for all student information
- Familiar set of system and processes for staff
- Automation capabilities for some processes and workflows
Purchase student health record software
Another option is to add a new software system designed specifically for student health and medical information. Some of these packages may be able to integrate with existing systems and are available in a range of costs and customizability. Key benefits include:
- Ready for student health and medical information out of the box
- Custom portals or applications for students, parents, teachers, nurses, and administrators
- Health-specific workflow automation and reminders
Digitize existing forms
Finally, it is perfectly feasible to digitize your existing forms and processes with existing tools. Digital management of student health information can generate cost savings and improve process efficiency. Key benefits include:
- Familiar system, convert existing forms and gradually shift to digital processes
- Incorporate other documents and connect with familiar tools, such as Microsoft 365 and major student information systems
- Adapt to and automate your workflows and information needs
Digitalizing school health forms and data with Adobe
Your school probably has a license for Adobe Acrobat, which provides powerful PDF functionality and security capabilities necessary for digitalizing student health information. Four steps will take you from an entirely paper-based process to an integrated, paperless student health system.
Create digital forms and enable electronic signatures
The first step is converting existing forms to digital ones. Every school has a large set of student health and medical forms, including immunization data, allergy and medication information, physical examinations, TB screening, and emergency medical release forms, among others. The recommended practice is to take these one at a time and follow through each process and then move on to the next one. You can scan and digitize paper forms with Adobe Scan or generate fillable PDF forms directly from most word processors and office suites. Then enable approval workflows, automated reminders, and electronic signatures for an end-to-end paperless process.
Manage authorization and access controls
The next step is ensuring that your digital process is secure and compliant with appropriate health information and student privacy regulations. Adobe builds in security with secure product lifecycle processes and applies hundreds of processes and controls to help you meet legal obligations and comply with relevant student data regulations, such as FERPA and HIPAA. Identity management services provide granular authorization and access controls linked to your employee records and synchronized across desktop, web, and mobile devices, so that the right people have access to the information they need. In addition, automated and batch redaction functions can cover or overprint sensitive areas of the forms before they are accessed or printed by users with limited access.
Summarize and report information for different users
Digital forms are great for collecting information but can be a cumbersome method of summarizing data or providing relevant subsets to key people. For example, you may want to give each teacher a list of allergies and medications for just their class or identify health and injury issues for athletic coaches. Or provide a portal for students and parents to review their collected health and medical data. Acrobat can automate this process by extracting selected data from a completed form and adding it to a spreadsheet or database. You can then give authorized users access to current and relevant data summaries without having to manually search and assemble each set.
Interact and integrate with other systems
Finally, you can integrate your digital student health information with other systems and databases to complete your digital transformation. Adobe Acrobat and Document Cloud integrate with a wide range of applications, such as office suites, databases, and productivity applications, and offer robust programming interfaces to add to your existing systems. These tools make it possible to interact with other legitimate sources and destinations for student health data, such as State immunization information systems and community health records, or to synchronize with your student information data. For example, you could improve the speed and accuracy of collecting data every year by generating pre-filled forms for each student based on the prior year’s data, to reduce duplication and data re-entry.
Electronic health records improve privacy, quality, efficiency, and safety of care, and are considered an essential school tool by the National Association of School Nurses. They also facilitate full lifecycle management, making it easier to collect, review, update, and delete records, as required by various laws. Whatever method you choose to digitalize this information, the importance of confidentiality, security, privacy, and regulatory compliance should not be understated.
Visit Adobe to learn more about how their education-focused solutions can help improve the collection and management of student health and medical information in your school.
Topics: Education, Content Management, Digital Transformation, Document Cloud, Future of Work
Products: Document Cloud, Acrobat, Scan