Note: Updated after initial post with additional information.

Question: Do the feds provide any instruction on keeping paper files versus digital records? I am asking this question because we are currently working on organizing files across our locations. I believe the feds require that we have paper copies of documents that require signatures but am not positive they forbid us from keeping them in digital format instead. And, what about other documents that end up in consumer files? Can we scan and store them in digital format or must they be on paper and in the consumer file.

Answer: This requirement is actually part of Uniform Administration Requirements, and now does allow electronic signatures or scanned documents for files. However, ILA/ACL hasn’t actually done any reviews under these regulations, so we are not certain they will agree. On the other hand, the review protocol being developed starts with a paper review, so we should know shortly. I have interpreted the regulation to mean that you can either scan and store actual signatures in digital format, and that you can use one of the electronic signature processes as well. Here is the reference:

§75.363   Methods for collection, transmission and storage of information.

In accordance with the May 2013 Executive Order on Making Open and Machine readable the New Default for Government Information, the HHS awarding agency and the non-Federal entity should, whenever practicable, collect, transmit, and store Federal award-related information in open and machine readable formats rather than in closed formats or on paper.

The context for this is financial records, but it references all Federal award-related information.

To be on the safe side, though, you may want to keep original documents signed by the consumer in a paper file, and scan the others into an electronic file. Make sure that your own policies and procedures match the practice you decide on.
Are Electronic Signatures Allowed?

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