Medical records often play a role in cases of all types and natures. As such, their retrieval and management are key functions for most law firms. However, given the sensitive nature of the information contained therein, the access and use of medical records is closely governed. In particular, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) enforces a number of strict requirements that all parties handling medical records, including law firms, must abide by.
Naturally, these regulations necessitate additional measures on the part of these law firms to ensure compliance. These measures, however, are often considerable investments of manpower and resources, and much can go wrong. Here are the issues commonly encountered by law firms when dealing with medical records.
1. Significant time investment and manual labor
Even when everything goes right, the retrieval of medical records is an often long and arduous process that requires constant supervision. Putting in a request involves filling out forms, which can be time-consuming especially when done in bulk. Once the request has been lodged, it may require regular tracking and follow-ups. And once the record is to be provided, reception involves a number of specific steps.
All of these add up to a considerable amount of time — time that would be taken from that of the paralegal team, or otherwise necessitate a dedicated team.
2. Unavailable information
If a time-consuming and labor-intensive process weren’t enough, the availability of information needed to retrieve a record is unfortunately not guaranteed. Often, details like addresses, phone numbers, or fax numbers will be missing or out-of-date, not having been updated when a provider had moved or retired in the past. Sometimes, providers see patients at more than one clinic, resulting in more complications.
On top of all that, the location of particular records can be missing entirely. Having to chase down, acquire, or sort through this spider web of incorrect or missing information creates additional work that delays the entire retrieval process.
3. Noncompliant providers
Even when all the above requirements are met, the possibility of unresponsive or noncompliant providers threatens to complicate the process. Providers often have very busy schedules, and unfortunately responding to requests for medical records or inquiries regarding their status are not necessarily the highest priority for them or their support staff. Getting through to such providers and convincing them to process the requests made to them in a timely manner can often be an uphill climb.
4. Lack of standardization
Assuming that all hurdles can be jumped and the appropriate medical records are obtained, another challenge awaits: translating these medical records into readily usable information to feed into case work. A major complication in this area is that medical records can come in a variety of formats, shapes, and sizes. This lack of standardization can make parsing through these records and gleaning the necessary information from them an unnecessary challenge. This can lead to costly mistakes that can seriously impact an attorney’s ability to build their case.
5. Missing records
Another impact of this variety in format is that the breadth and scope of information contained across medical records may not be consistent. Information that might be key to a particular case could be missing from the standard record obtained from a particular provider, and the fact that the information is missing may not be ascertained until the record has been provided. In this case, a new request would need to be made, bringing with it accompanying delays.
Much of the above issues can be mitigated by partnering with a reliable medical record retrieval partner. We at Record Retrieval Solutions have a wide network of existing relationships with various providers, and a dedicated staff team experienced in requesting such records. We also tout sophisticated equipment able to scan records and collate information in easy-to-ready, standardized templates, making it easy for lawyers to parse through them. Contact us today to address all your medical record retrieval troubles.