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What is a PDF/A, and Why Should Medical Offices Care?

By Higher Information Group | Healthcare

In the healthcare industry, medical providers must retain patient records for a set period to comply with the HIPAA, or The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. PDF/A (Portable Document Format Archival) is excellent for preserving these sensitive patient files.

A PDF/A is a special kind of PDF that ensures the visual appearance of a document remains the same, regardless of what hard- or software is used.

All the information needed to display the document and its elements (think fonts, images, color information) is embedded in the file. This means the medical records will remain readable even if the hard- or software used to access the private documents changes.

How PDF/A is different from PDF

  • PDF/A is meant for preserving documents that can be restored when needed. A PDF can’t preserve documents.
  • PDF/A does not allow audio, video, and executable content, while PDF does.
  • PDF/A requires that graphics and fonts be embedded into the file, while PDF does not. This ensures that a user of a PDF/A does not need the same fonts that were used to create the original file installed on their computer to read the file.
  • PDF/A does not allow external content references, while PDF does.
  • PDF/A does not allow encryption, while PDF does.

After reading this list, you might be thinking: Geez, what’s a PDF/A good for? It turns out it’s good for a lot.

The Benefits of PDF/A

Archiving
As previously mentioned, PDF/A’s main draw is the long-term storage of digital information. This is especially useful for the healthcare industry in which HIPAA mandates how confidential patient information is both stored and destroyed.

Perfect Conversion
PDF/A is ISO-standardized in contrast to a PDF. It must meet certain requirements so that years from now, the look of the original file remains the same. This is especially important should a legal, medical dispute arise. You can be confident that you can rely on PDF/A documents and that they have not been altered.

Searchable
You can search PDF/A documents, saving you time and money.

Legally Binding
PDF/A is a great option for digitally signed documents and records. Digital signatures recorded in the PDF/A file can be enforceable by law.

Reusable
PDF/A makes it easy to reuse content. The files can be easily converted to Word, HTML, or eBook formats.

Using this document preservation tool will keep sensitive patient records and other private information safe, accessible, and easy to search. The format can also be used for scanned documents.

If your organization needs help making documents PDF/A compliant, Higher Information Group’s document conversion team can help.

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