Medical record retrieval is a crucial service for attorneys and law firms because medical records form the foundation of personal injury, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, social security disability and other cases. The retrieval process is not an easy one and is time- as well as labor-intensive. Besides, there is HIPAA compliance to consider – i.e. compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that mandates protection of private medical data of American citizens. HIPAA requirements make it difficult to acquire medical records from hospitals, doctors and other medical record custodians.
Getting the Required Medical Documentation
The first thing to know is who holds the required medical records. This involves locating the healthcare facility or agency or other provider that has the records, and getting their contact information.
Attorneys who need to collect medical records can do one of the following.
- Have their client get the records for them. Since patients are allowed to access their personal medical records, they could place a request for the medical records and give a copy to the attorney. This method is practical only if the patient is your own client, and willing to place the request on his/her own in a timely manner. Most importantly, they must also be enthusiastic enough to keep track of the request to avoid undue delays in getting the record.
- A second option attorneys have is to subpoena the healthcare provider of facility. For this a HIPAA-compliant authorization signed by the patient is required. Since each healthcare provider may have their own form for this purpose, you have to contact each provider and understand their record release rules.
- The third option is getting a court order for medical record release. In this case, you have to specifically and clearly mention what records are required and for what purpose you need them. If the court orders are not specific, you may end up with incomplete medical records and a poor understanding of the medical facts.
Medical Record Retrieval Services Could Help
Apart from HIPAA, the main challenges law firms and attorneys face with regard to retrieving the crucial medical records are:
- Staff and time constraints.
- The challenge of understanding the complex formalities of hospitals related to medical record release and recordkeeping rules.
- Difficulty in maintaining steady and ongoing communication with medical record custodians.
- Many healthcare providers still maintain paper records filed away in cabinets or off-site facilities. This makes record retrieval highly challenging and laborious.
When a professional record retrieval service is hired, they bring with them many advantages – knowledge of HIPAA rules and regulations, a dedicated retrieval team, and association with local agencies as well as record keepers. You only need to fill out an easy request form to kickstart the record retrieval. The company will work with the various record custodians, fill out the necessary forms, maintain all documentation necessary and take every step necessary for obtaining the records. They will also ensure that all the medical records you need are intact, and ready for use when you want them. There need be no concerns such as filing errors, or regulatory non-compliance that could result in delay or even denial of your medical record request.
Ensuring Efficiency in Record Retrieval
Medical record retrieval, organization and analysis are vital processes in medical-legal litigation. The information contained in the medical records is important to plaintiff as well as defense attorneys. Therefore, law firms and attorneys must ensure that the record retrieval process is efficient and effective, whether performed in-house or entrusted to a medical review company. It is important to have an expedient way to track and manage the medical record requests – an online portal that allows access irrespective of your location could be a practical and efficient option. Once retrieved, the medical records must be well organized, reviewed and the required medical information extracted, if they are to be effectively used in litigation.