When discussions about medical records begin, they tend to initially focus on the trade-off between cost of outsourcing vs. using in-house resources. While clearly an important component, there are other considerations necessary to make the right choice. Here’s a list of 7 considerations we think are as important as cost:
- Speed – Let’s be honest. How many law offices, regardless of size, have extra people-hours to spend being involved in the requesting, tracking and collection of medical records. I would venture to say not many. Therefore, speed is ultimately impacted as staff assigned other full-time responsibilities are assigned the chore of medical record retrieval. It’s akin to asking a developer of a key application if he has time to run out and get then sort the mail. In a small start-up, it might make sense since everyone multitasks. But could you see it happening at Adobe or Microsoft? Probably not.
- Contacts – Medical Record Retrieval specialists know the right people to contact when a request comes in. Often, these relationships go back many year, and there is a crisp, clear understanding of what is required (HIPAA request form up-to-date), the delivery cycle (when will it be ready for pick-up), and even the media (more healthcare providers will deliver Electronic Health Records format or EHR).
- Fixed vs Variable – Reputable medical record retrieval providers will provide hard costs and fees vs. a percentage of a billable resource’s time. While often lower in overall cost, there is a clear delineation between fees charged by the provider for copies or media, fees for requests for specialties like Bates Stamping, and lastly the charge for the search and hosting. It is proven to be far more palatable to the client than accumulated billable time added on to the same fees required by the provider.
- Passable vs. Non-Passable – This is especially important in those cases considered pro bono with recovery for expenses. In certain states, California being one of them, any work done by staff is considered non-passable as office overhead. In contrast, invoices for record retrieval expenses charged to a matter, regardless of outcome, is recoverable as passable costs.
- Access – Besides the obvious HIPAA compliance regulations, it is imperative to have medical data in a private, segmented cloud space. This data must be secured via log-in and password, and be accessible only to those parties with a need to know. Instead, a trackable list of logins (by date, time, location and device) reduces risk of claims to impropriety in handling of medical records.
- Security – Backup copies of medical records are often overlooked both when done in-house or by a record retrieval provider. The best choice is a record retrieval provider which not only provides regular, scheduled back-ups, but also attests that each back-up server is located in the United States. Many cloud providers in the legal vertical look to low-cost, offshore servers. These offshore locations may have contracts which state service level and security provisions. However, accessing those non-US servers with your records could be a challenge in the event of a natural or man-made catastrophe. Even those with honorable intentions may not make US requests their first-priority, nor will the laws of their land necessarily compel them to respond.
- Fair Practice – Did you know that some record retrieval service providers receive hospital and other patient records in Electronic Health Record (essentially digitized records) and then print out the pages merely to capture per-page fees? While it makes sense to check that the records provided are for the correct patient, time frame and services provided, there is no need to do needless work to generate unnecessary fees.