What is a Chain of Custody?

In any industry that handles sensitive information, a chain of custody protocol is key. Chain of custody is a process whereby all materials that are transported between the parties is clearly documented.  Through this process, data is carefully tracked, ensuring that there is a full record of where it’s been, who has handled it, and its real time status. Naturally in document imaging and management, the items of concern are source materials – ranging from paper records to microfilm reels – and their electronic derivatives. Tracking is vital in keeping information protected and accounted for.

At ILM, many customers ask us about our chain of custody procedures. We know it is crucial to maintain complete confidentiality and security with your documents, handling them with efficiency and care, so we apply the highest quality control standards to our chain of custody policies. Here, we’ll go through the process we use to ensure the secure handling of your physical and electronic documents.

Related: 5 questions you should ask a document management provider

 

Process Rundown

Whether you want physical documents scanned and imaged, or need an indexing solution for an a large collection of unsorted materials, we make sure your documents are always accounted for and properly managed from receipt to final delivery. The process goes like this:

  • Your documents are delivered to ILM via a variety of collection methods such as courier pickup, PO box, or third party carrier.
  • A dedicated project manager inventories each shipment against what you tell us you’re sending and creates project tracking logs.
  • Scanning, document request, and upload logs track each file through the production process.
  • Your dedicated project manager also tracks the location of physical documents, which staff member has worked with the materials, whether or not rescans/reprints were required, and more.
  • Once electronic documents are delivered to the customer, the project manager discusses requirements regarding either file disposition or retention.
  • If documents are destroyed, ILM’s project manager will send a certificate of destruction to the customer’s point of contact upon completion.

From beginning to end, the project manager is responsible for the location, handling, and effective processing of every single one of your documents. They also check that every unit of source material is accounted for to guarantee nothing is lost or compromised.

 

Pickup and Delivery

The process begins with the pickup and delivery of documentation. It is imperative that your paper or electronic documents be accounted for while they are in transit, whether physically or electronically. There are several ways this is done, depending on the nature of the project and your preferences. A few of these include:

  • Professional carriers such as UPS or FedEx that use real time tracking.
  • Dedicated PO Box for mailing out and receiving your documents
  • ILM’s pickup/delivery service, making daily trips throughout the Mid-Atlantic region
  • Secure fax lines
  • Tractor trailer pickup and delivery
  • ILM’s digital mailroom service
  • Cloud transfer for electronic documents

The primary concern is the mode of transfer must be able to handle the capacity of your project while maintaining security standards. Regardless of whether our own service or a third party handles the pickup of hard copy materials, your documents are meticulously tracked during transit.

 

Organization and Processing

Upon receipt of your materials, they are thoroughly inventoried and organized to prevent losses and maintain data security. This is when your project manager takes over. Fully dedicated to your project, the project manager is your primary point of contact.

When your documents arrive, the project manager inventories them and creates project logs for the staff to use. The production staff follows those logs, and strict protocols are adhered to keep the project manager aware of the project’s current state. This includes:

  • Where physical documents are located
  • Which documents have been processed
  • Who has worked on which documents
  • Scanning and upload logs
  • Document requests
  • Location of processed documents on our servers

By following strict quality control standards, ILM ensures that your documents are always accounted for throughout processing. This not only keeps them protected, but it also allows us to quickly find documents when you need them. Since we are aware of where your documents are located, when you make a document request, we can promptly retrieve the data and get it to you.

Each step is carefully recorded, so everyone on our team is accountable. This prevents accidental losses, tampering, unauthorized exposure of your confidential information, allowing you to be fully at ease with our processes as we work on your project. The methods we use for indexing are designed to prevent those working on them from seeing full documents, keeping your information protected.

 

Project Completion

Upon completion, your newly scanned, imaged, or indexed documents are sent to you electronically or on hard media. Different encryption methods are available.  From there, the project manager follows up with you on how physical documents, if applicable, should be handled. You may opt to have them sent back to you via the methods described above or you may prefer they be properly disposed.

Related: Should my documents be retained or disposed?

Our quality control methods guarantee that your confidential information is not compromised throughout the process—you can rest assured that our delivery and disposition methods are completely secure.

 

ILM and Quality Control

ILM’s chain of custody is a key part of our quality control process. We are fully certified to ISO 9001:2015 standards, which means we keep up with strict policies governing the way we handle quality management. Some ways we do this is by managing and updating the following:

  • The responsibilities of each member of our team, including project managers
  • Management of company resources
  • Auditing of processes designed to assess the quality of our methods
  • Precise documentation of how each process is to be executed
  • Continual improvement of existing protocols and quality control systems

The standards in ISO 9001:2015 focus heavily on the way customer materials are handled. Our processes are constantly being assessed and brought up to date to comply with the strictest standards, as well as to keep careful track of the materials you entrust to our care.

ILM has an ironclad chain of custody protocol in place, and every day we strive to make it even more secure and precise. Regardless of your project or specific requirements, at ILM we take great measures to make sure your data is handled properly and securely.

 

To learn more about the steps we take in safeguarding your important data, contact ILM today.