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How To Turn Your Paper Documents Into Digital Files

by Robert Garment, Executive Editor | September 06, 2006
Even though virtually every piece of information is computerized today, some things still exist on paper, or hard copy.

With OCR technology (Optical Character Recognition), a scanner can "read" words on a page and create a computer file for you.

For instance, DOTmed recently received the post-attendee list from the AHRMM Trade Show of over 1,000 names & addresses on 40, 2-sided pieces of paper. This is a valuable mailing list. By not on hard copy.

We sent the pages to a low-cost, OCR company we like, New York Document Scanning, and got back not just flawless data, but got it back in the form of an Excel file that now can be used by a Mailing House to automatically address direct mail pieces.

New York Document Scanning has also recently completed document scanning projects for the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

OCR costs can be as low as 15 or 20 cents a page. Re-entering all those addresses by hand would have taken more time, cost more, and no doubt included plenty of typing mistakes.

As long as you have "clean" copy, you can digitize almost any printed page with little or no clean-up. And even if your printed source isn't perfect, depending on the nature of it, most documents can be successfully captured. Some recognition software (ICR) can successfully read handwriting as well.

Simple rule of thumb is to ask your OCR vendor and/or send a sample of what you want scanned. Most OCR companies will also come to you if you want the scanning done at your office. People do this when highly confidential documents are involved that they don't want to leave their hands. But these companies know that keeping your information confidential is essential, or their business is dead.

Digitizing documents also gives you a secure backup copy.