Medical records are the most important piece of the puzzle for attorneys in medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and social security disability firms. Getting medical records quickly, creating medical summaries, and establishing a medical chronology are key to advancing your client’s case and getting your team the information they need to succeed. Unfortunately, medical record retrieval isn’t always timely or easy. Medical providers often take forever to respond; requests may be too broad, resulting in pushback from medical providers and your team is probably so busy that they may not realize records haven’t come in until several months have gone by. So here are five tips for streamlining your medical record retrieval process.
Get proper authorization
If you’re reading this, you already know you need the authorization to access your client’s medical records. The easiest and most widely used manner for getting authorization is the standard HIPAA Authorization Form. Though the form is fairly straightforward, if there is even the slightest mistake, a medical provider is likely to reject your request on the basis that you don’t have the proper authorization – so pay close attention when filling out the forms. Furthermore, injured clients are focused on their recovery and won’t be happy if they have to keep signing forms and sending them back to you every few months. Make their life easier and your process faster by asking your client to sign a few blank forms or sign a single blank form that you can copy at the same time they sign the engagement letter. Obviously, you must protect these and ensure proper data security in compliance with ethical standards and HIPAA. Other options include using HIPAA-compliant e-signature services so forms can be signed when needed in an easily and comfortably by your client.
Narrow your requests
A client’s medical records can be voluminous, especially if they’ve been regularly visiting the same provider for many years. Medical providers are likely to reject requests that are too broad (even with proper authorization) and cause a burden to the provider – they’ll even fight subpoenas on the same grounds. To avoid this delay in medical record retrieval, tailor your request to the specific needs of your client’s case. Specify time frames related to your client’s injuries and limit requests to medical records pertaining only to the injured areas. Medical providers are much more likely to respond quickly and favorably to a well-defined request than a simple request for a client’s entire medical file. Furthermore, this will make it easier for your team to create relevant medical summaries and a medical chronology because they won’t have to sort through mountains of completely irrelevant paperwork.
Follow up regularly
Hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices are – like medical malpractice and personal injury firms – very busy places with mountains of paperwork or electronic medical records to process. Medical record requests often get put on the back burner because doctors, nurses, and staff are dealing with patients. Some requests might get set aside and never dealt. Therefore, following up with providers regularly is essential to getting the required medical records quickly. A fringe benefit of regular follow-ups is that providers will eventually realize you’ll contact them regularly until you get what you need – which usually results in faster processing. However, your staff is also busy, so you’ll need to use a case management or calendaring system to set “medical record retrieval follow-up” tasks and alerts. Alternatively, you can follow the advice of tip four and…
Utilize an experienced medical record retrieval service provider
The state of technology today allows firms of all sizes to access support and services that were previously accessible only to the largest, wealthiest law firms. When it comes to medical records, a service provider with experience in the field can greatly speed up the medical record retrieval process and reduce your staff’s burden. Tech-enabled service providers allow your team to manage this process seamlessly. Depending on your desired setup and levels of integration, your team can easily start the process by sending a quick request through email or even through your case management system (in some cases). Even easier are integrations that automatically alert the service provider to start the medical record retrieval process. Either way, once the assignment has come through, the service provider can create and send out medical record requests. They can then monitor the progress of the request and follow up regularly as needed. They take all the burden off your staff and greatly enhance the process, all for a fraction of the cost. Some even have the ability to help you create the medical summaries and medical chronologies that are so important to your attorneys. It’s a service that will make an immediate difference to your practice.
Keep those records organized
Organization is key to dealing with medical records, not least because of HIPAA and ethical data security concerns. Two crucial steps in setting up a well-organized medical record system are creating medical summaries and a medical chronology. These two important documents go hand-in-hand. A medical chronology is a high-level document that outlines the key dates, in chronological order, related to the clients’ injuries and subsequent treatments. The medical summaries go into more detail, serving as an index to the medical records. They are organized by the provider, include dates and times of all procedures, a description of the procedure, and important notes. All cross-referenced to the actual medical records. Medical summaries and chronologies will make your teams’ job easier, will make proving your case easier, and will allow attorneys to become experts on your client’s condition quickly. It will also significantly increase ease of reference during trials and depositions.
So to let us solve this puzzle for you and streamline your medical record retrieval process, schedule a free consultation with our expert today!