Or, This Paralegal’s New Best Friend
One of the most time-consuming and tedious job duties I used to frequently perform as a paralegal working on serious injury cases was redacting health insurance and payment information – by hand – from voluminous medical records and bills. Like many solos and small firms, my firm did not have any redaction software until recently. As many of my readers know too well, manual redaction requires making duplicate work copies, and then choosing your messy/sticky weapon of choice, such as a Sharpie, Paper Mate Liquid Paper Dryline and/or Post-It Cover Up Tape (in three different sizes). In a case involving complex injuries, extensive medical treatment and hundreds of pages of records, this exhaustive process can take hours – longer if you run out of supplies (including the ones you raid from your co-workers’ desks).
Therefore, I was unusually excited when the opportunity arose to review Redact-It® Desktop
from Information Graphics (IGC)
), a “simple desktop tool” which “intelligently remove[s] sensitive content and privacy information from documents.” I had just completed a lengthy redaction project that took over half a day of my time, plus a ream of paper and several rolls of cover up tape. One of the attorneys in our firm had recently spent a late night redacting a last-minute project by hand. Another paralegal had just finished a discovery project where she had to redact – by hand – confidential information from thousands of pages of financial documents. We were more than ready to try an economically feasible software package like Redact-It®Desktop ($195 per user license or desktop), to see if we could use our redaction time more efficiently – and significantly decrease the number of staff hours which would be better used doing more substantive work, as well as the cost of expensive office supplies.
First and foremost, it is very simple to start using Redact-It right away. The program includes “Getting Started with Redact-It” which shows users the various program features in short, clear and easy to follow steps. It only took a few minutes to review the how-tos, and I was ready to start my usual redaction project, redacting variable payment and insurance information from medical documents. I simply clicked “Open” to access the already scanned documents (no making duplicate copies), clicked the “Redact” button, and started dragging the box to highlight the many areas I needed to redact. Suddenly, I was the Super Woman of Redaction, redacting documents faster than a speeding bullet.
One immediate benefit of using Redact-It is how quickly I can redact data from just a few characters to almost an entire page of a document, without having to decide which size black marker or cover up tape to use. I simply clicked and dragged the redact button to immediately block out the desired information. I was amazed at how fast I was able to whip through a large stack of medical bills from different providers, almost instantaneously – and neatly – redacting documents that used to take me as much as five or ten minutes a page, depending on how many separate areas needed to be redacted (sometimes dozens per page on itemized statements).
Each time I redacted an area, I was offered the opportunity log it and to fill in the reason for the redaction. Redacting became almost fun instead of tedious and inconvenient – and much less messy, without little pieces of cover up tape sticking to my fingers and in my hair. Plus, I could still see the content underneath the redacted areas prior to finalizing the project. This allows users to easily and instantly “un-redact” mistakes – a much more painstaking project if you used pens or white-out and can no longer see the redacted information.
Once I finished making my proposed redactions, I used the “Verify” feature to double-check my work and manually review my redactions. The last “Finalize” step saved the redacted document in a new file type of my choice (PDF or TIFF), without modifying or overwriting the original PDF document (unlike Acrobat). Users also have the option of saving a draft version for other reviewers to see the proposed redactions and the content underneath – prior to finalizing. A project that normally would have taken at least three or four hours was completed in well under an hour, simply viewing and marking the documents on my computer screen (much kinder on my eyes). The final redacted product is much more attractive and professional-looking than hand-redacted documents.
While most of my redaction projects require manual review of each page because of the variable data involved with billing, insurance and payment information, Redact-It offers many auto-search features for any kind of data, including a “Redact Privacy Info” feature which will automatically find and redact Social Security numbers, phone numbers, email addresses, date of birth and names from a variety of documents, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, e-mail messages and searchable PDF files. I used this feature to redact dozens of instances of privacy information from several documents in literally seconds.
Redact-it also allows users to search for other commonly redacted information, like account and reference numbers, addresses, race or state, as well as create custom searches, such as finding a specific term like “25 million”. The “Find & Redact” tool allows users to create custom and “wild card” text searches which are automatically redacted when found. In addition to searching by text, Redact-It® Desktop also offers the ability to search by pattern, macros, templates and even by re-runable scripts which can be used repeatedly. Users can also do a bulk manual redaction to process documents with the same layouts. IGC provides plenty of examples to show users how to set up their own scripts and templates.
Redact-It also allows users to easily stamp documents with preset stamps like “draft,” “completed,” and “confidential.” Users can create custom stamps and water marks as well – and Bates-number documents. The software also removes metadata and allows users to create IGC Content Sealed Format (CSF) files with added security controls to prevent altering. Recipients use a free Brava viewer to access the CSF files.
No More Cover Up Tape or Sharpies
Redact-It is designed to redact documents quickly and painlessly, and to take as much human error out of the process as possible. For legal professionals who frequently redact a significant number of documents as part of their regular job duties, it is the ideal software solution. Legal technology experts with much more software savvy than me have weighed in (see reviews below), and given this terrific software high marks for doing the main task it was designed for, offering a variety of ways to auto-redact documents and create redacted and secure new documents, while leaving the original files “as is.”
From this newbie’s perspective (remember mine was the hand with cover up tape still stuck to it), the main toolbar is wonderfully simple and user-friendly, making it easy to start redacting documents right away, even for users who are a little leery of new technology. Redact-It offers a free 15-day trial (http://www.infograph.com/Redact-It.asp
), a great no-risk opportunity to see the many advantages this application has over hand redaction.
If your firm is currently redacting voluminous documents by hand and has a tight budget, you could make a sound argument that over a short period of time Redact-It will offer a substantial savings in attorney and staff time, as well as the cost of paper and redaction supplies.
Now that I’ve used Redact-It® Desktop, there’s no way I’m going back to Sharpies and cover up tape.
This post was originally published in June 2010, but I still highly recommend this very economical, dedicated software to anyone that does a great deal of document redaction. I like to say that this software will pay for itself in about four hours tops!