Posted and filed under Compliance, Medical Record Auditing.

Tackling a project as intricate as Medical Record Retrievals may seem daunting – and it is, but you can still make it through unscathed. Perhaps your firm was enlisted by an attorney, health plan, or medical auditing organization to retrieve medical records directly from a provider’s office. What tools do you need? How do you abide by all regulations? How do you convince the providers that you’re not the enemy?

We’ve taken lessons learned from executing our own record retrieval projects over the years to provide you with a quick start guide to surviving this demanding endeavor.

Stay Organized

All record retrieval projects are not created equal, but they should all be approached with organization in mind. To coordinate schedules, maintain asset and record inventory, meet guidelines, and facilitate the necessary travel; you’ll need to have a concrete process in place from the very beginning. Beyond those responsibilities, as a project manager, you’ll need to manage multiple calendars, keep track of provider locations, expedite the uploading/transmission process, and effectively oversee a team of medical record couriers. All of this, coupled with working remotely in contrast to the mobile retrievers means that lines of communication must be clear more often than not.

Communication Matters

Medical record retrievals can happen for a variety of reasons, most of which will leave the provider at least a little disgruntled. For this reason, it’s imperative to carry the communication skills mentioned above into your interactions with the medical facility that you will be retrieving records from. If you’re performing retrievals for a medical record audit there is a chance that the office will be defensive. Do not let your communications become tainted with frustration. Instead, consider establishing a positive relationship with the office manager. Building trust and maintaining a positive attitude are the hallmarks of having positive communications with the provider’s staff. From there – you must be sure to make the office feel at ease, and find a way to articulate that the retrieval process will be minimally invasive to patients and providers.

Saving Face

Throughout the engagement, you and your team must remain professional. It’s easy to lose sight of physical team appearances with mobile and remote units – but all retrievers must remain professional in appearance and behavior. It is important to establish a professional dress code for all medical record couriers. Consider footwear, visible body modifications (tattoos, piercings, etc.), coverage of undergarments, and all other articles of clothing. The team should be aware of and accountable to adhere to these regulations.

In respect to professional behavior there are a few pillars of respect. Retrievers are tasked with the sole assignment of retrieving the requested medical records in an efficient, compliant, professional manner. This means that unnecessary cellphone use, excessive talking, and lack of awareness will put a damper on the entire project. Properly training retrievers on expected conduct is imperative to a successful project.

Mind the Red Tape

Handling medical records means that all parties involved need to be properly trained on not only the client’s guidelines and documentation requirements, but of HIPAA and other privacy/compliance related regulations. Maintaining an understanding of HIPAA policies and expectations will mitigate some of the risk that comes with handling medical records. Beyond the proper handling and accessing of medical records you need to ensure that the tools being used are also HIPAA compliant. This means that your retrievers should be using secured equipment. For digital collections, retrievers should be using a secure, encrypted digital storage device. For paper records, HIPAA Compliant document scanning devices should be used. Companies such as Fujitsu design and sell a line of such devices that were designed specifically to meet the privacy requirements instituted by the healthcare industry.

Failure to adhere to all guidelines could result in project termination or worse, depending on the severity of the offense.