What is Data Capture?

data capturing, handing out of documents

Did you know that people were capturing data manually until a few years ago? In most parts of the world, data capture software that eliminates hours of writing everything down on paper is used. And in certain industries, the manual process is still utilized. But what is data capture? In a nutshell? It is the practice of collecting important data that is eventually going to be stored in a secure place. Some industries, such as the medical field, use data capturing to document patient medical information. This medical information is then stored on large databases that medical practitioners can access. Luckily with technological advancements, you are now able to collect and store data digitally. Let’s unpack this further and look at what data capture is.

What is it?

Data capture is the practice of collecting critical information either in a paper-based form or electronically. This data is used in various ways, whether in clinical trials, or for customers. Most organizations begin their information management journey at this point. Look at it this way; you have just visited a new doctor for the first time, so you will need to complete a form with all your relevant medical information. This will include your health insurance details, personal information like cell phone number, address, and social security number, as well as any necessary medical information such as being allergic to penicillin.

The introduction of digital solutions dramatically reduced the time spent collecting data. This way, the data becomes easier to store (in a cloud-based storage system), easier to protect, and easier to access (only those authorized to access the data will be allowed to).

Businesswomen Checking Information in Documents

What is the process?

As explained above, organizations and businesses will start the data capture process once a form is completed by a customer or patient. The form is designed in a specific way, including items such as tick boxes, selecting an option, etc. It needs to be set up in a certain way because of how the data is extracted. You want accurate data at all times, which leads to less time spent searching through the data to find what you need. With digital methods, it’s so much easier since you can search using certain keywords or phrases. There are also multiple tools available today, and these tools allow you to organize workflows and allow for rapid movement of data. The aim of these tools is to make the data capture process simple, accurate, fast, and effective.

Person Pointing Paper Line Graph

Methods available

While there are multiple methods available, you need to understand that the technique used will depend on the type of business or industry. There is no one size fits all so you can read about about what’s to come for data capture online, but in the meantime, here are some of the data capture methods used today:

  • Manual: This involves a form being captured into a spreadsheet or computer for digitized access. This method mainly works for smaller businesses with low amounts of data. With this, you run the risk of human error in terms of inputting the data incorrectly, which may lead to inaccurate results.
  • Automated: The one that does it all for you. Everything is recorded digitally and stored for ease of access. This is an excellent method for large corporations and businesses since it eliminates human error, and large amounts of data can be stored at any time. Furthermore, there are different forms of data capture: optical character recognition, which is used in healthcare, intelligent character recognition, used in banks and finance, and intelligent document recognition, used in invoicing and customer service interactions.
  • Barcodes and QR codes: Barcodes are unique, offer a lot of security, and are mainly used on shop floors when it comes to inventory. QR codes are a great way to capture documents and web pages, used mainly in advertising and shops.
  • Digital forms: This is done through a web or mobile application. This is completely customizable and eliminates the need for a paper-based record. Because it’s done online, the data can be stored securely instantly, and you can access it just as quickly.
  • Video and images: This is quite the advanced one out of the list since it requires the use of artificial intelligence. AI is used to identify and extract information regarding individuals. It’s used for real-time monitoring, security, and database matching.

Some honorable mentions:

  • Smart cards: Used for identification.
  • Voice capture: Speech recognition technology to process data.
  • Magnetic ink character recognition: Used in banks.
  • Magnetic stripe cards: Used in bank cards, hotel room keys, etc.
  • Web scraping: Web bots are used to find certain data online.
  • Digital signatures: Used to authorize approvals digitally.
  • Optical mark reading: An electronic method that identifies human-filled data.
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