How many times has your office come to a complete standstill while you've had to organize a search party to locate a missing file? Once the file has been found, how long does it take you to locate a particular document and/or piece of correspondence in the file? Do you have files stacked on your desk, chairs, floors, cabinets, etc.?
This can be extremely frustrating. There are ways to avoid this constant aggravation of not being able to locate what you want when you want it.
An alphabetical system may suffice in a small practice. For the larger practice, a numerical system is both flexible and easy to use. The numerical system will easily expand as your practice does.
Place a colored file divider in the place of a file that is removed from the cabinet. On the card, sign the name of the person taking the file and the date the file was removed. Another idea is to have a notebook in the file room. All files removed from the file room would have to be listed in the notebook along with the initials of the persons taking the file.
An effective filing system requires that all files be maintained in a centralized location. If files are stored in individual offices or desks the probability of lost files or documents increases significantly. Then, too, there is the value of the time lost in trying to locate particular items. Maintenance of the files should be the responsibility of one member of the office staff, such as a file clerk.
If you do not have the space to store hard copies of all of your closed files you may want to consider putting your files on computer disks, CD-ROM or even microfilm. Another idea is to return closed files to the client. Have the client sign a statement accepting the original file. Prepare a cover letter to go with the file stating that the entire file is being returned or list the various items from the file that are being returned.
Be sure to notify the client in writing that your office will not retain duplicates. Keep a copy of the letter. If the letter and file are being returned by mail, send the package certified, return receipt requested. If the file is being picked up or delivered, have the client sign the copy of the letter which you will keep.
You may want to assign new file numbers to the files that are closed and keep the closed filing system completely separate from the active files. By assigning new numbers to the closed files, you will not have the problem of shifting the files in the storage area when you later close a file that has a lower number. You, of course, will need a separate index for the closed files.