Often, the ultimate outcome of a case depends on the data contained in a patient’s medical chart. This makes chart review a crucial step in any personal injury or medical malpractice case and other injury cases. Medical record retrieval is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, because the medical data required could be spread across multiple disciplines and practice areas. Retrieving, securing and organizing this voluminous data demands experience and expertise. However, there are certain ways how legal teams can make the retrieval process more well-organized and effective. Let us examine what these are.
- Obtain permission/authorization from the patient: This is an important first step in the record retrieval process, and a medical review company assisting attorneys would ensure this. Healthcare providers require a HIPAA-compliant authorization signed by the patient/plaintiff or his/her legal power of attorney, for release of sensitive medical information. Also, there may be other special authorizations required and providers may have their own rules and authorizations. So, to save time and effort it is best to secure the appropriate authorizations at the outset itself.
- Ensure that the request you send is error-free: If there are errors in the request, these will inevitably lead to delay in processing the request. Make sure that the name of the plaintiff is correct with no spelling errors. Check the forms again and again to make sure that the information given is complete and correct.
- Find out the correct address to which the request is to be sent: Find out which is the correct department within the provider’s facility to which the request is to be sent. Once the department and location are identified, verify the details by phone before placing the actual request for the medical records.
- Clearly understand what records you need: There is no need to collect irrelevant records and incur associated expenses. So, specify the kind of records, whether list of medications, radiology records, and so on.
- Regularly follow up on the requests placed: To obtain the medical records within the stipulated time, follow up with the requests. According to Federal law, organizations are allowed 30 days from the receipt of the record request to start the process. Consider sending them a gentle reminder to dispatch the records.
- Have a system in place to track and manage each request you place: When you have a system to track your medical record request status, it will ensure that there are minimal delays in getting the records needed. The turnaround time could depend on the type and size of the healthcare facility. Typically, you may receive the records within 30 days. However, tracking is important because it will enable everyone involved to stay informed and minimize turnaround times. Moreover, it will help ensure that deadlines are not missed.
- The medical records must be organized properly so that information is easily accessible: Medical records are diverse and comprise patient history, physician orders, lab tests, treatments, medications, billing information and so on. These must be well-organized to be used effectively. Properly organized records present a clear view of the medical history of the plaintiff and facilitates medical chart review. Attorneys can quickly find the required information and more quickly prepare and present the case.
- Consider automation: Today, technology is so advanced that automated medical record retrieval is possible. Selecting an automated service can prove beneficial in terms of faster turnaround and less effort.
Attorneys are hard-pressed for time and have to focus on putting together a compelling case. Therefore, too much time spent on retrieving medical records and reviewing them could prove costly. This calls for a well-defined process for retrieving the records and the right people to provide assistance. Many legal teams hire professional medical review companies to provide the required support. This is a more effective alternative because a specialist can get the job done more quickly and in much lesser time.