Getting a copy of medical records quickly can seem like a challenge. It may be necessary to possess these records for court deadlines or to confirm a person’s diagnosis or disability. Sometimes, it’s essential because the time for a second opinion for medical care is limited. No matter the reason for needing to obtain medical records fast, it’s critical to do so appropriately, keeping HIPPA and HITECH laws in mind. Securely retrieving these documents helps with privacy and minimizes the risks of fraud.
Types of Medical Records
The type of medical record needed plays a role in how quickly sourcing can occur. Some forms of medical records you may need to access include:
- Visit reports and notes: These are typically notes or documents created by a primary care doctor or specialist that outline what occurred during the visit or the findings from tests. They help create a stream of information to ensure clear communication occurs from one appointment to the next. They typically contain information about what the patient and doctor discussed, recommended next steps, and findings from exams.
- Current medication list: Having an up-to-date medication list is essential in knowing what a person takes and how often. This medication list may outline why a person is taking the medication if that’s unclear.
- Discharge summaries: Providers typically create a discharge summary for an in-hospital stay or medical center procedure. It includes details on what took place, continued care for the individual, and the type of immediate needs they have. These summaries may also include required care and treatment and therapies and medications a person may need to continue to take.
- Physical exams and histories: Medical histories outline a person’s record of significant medical events. These histories may include serious illness or disease. They also typically include any surgical procedures, significant injuries, and other types of care provided over a person’s lifetime. Physical exams provide an up-to-date outline of a person’s health, including any current conditions or ailments or symptoms discussed. Exams outline any doctor’s findings from communications or a physical examination.
- Test and Results: Medical records from tests typically include the specific type of test completed and the findings. In some cases, a specialist may provide an interpretation. Tests may have summaries that break down specific findings, often in medical terminology.
Know Whether to Use HIPPA or HITECH
The difference between HIPAA and HITECH is very small, and it’s common to be unsure as to which type of method to use when obtaining medical records. Both forms address the security of electronic access to medical records.
HIPAA applies to Personally Identifiable Information, Electronic Protected Health Information, or Protected Health Information. This Act went into effect in 1996. The HITECH Act is newer, having gone into effect in 2009. It aims to promote the adoption of technology in the health information sector, specifically through Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
What’s the difference? HIPAA works to protect a person’s privacy regarding health matters. HITECH aims to promote health technology by providing funding for implementing these systems.
Two key differences between the two acts are the penalty structure and the responsibility of breach notifications. Here’s a closer look.
The Breach Notification Rule established regulations for healthcare providers, health insurance plans, and others covered by HIPAA to notify a person when their information was breached in some way. Organizations had to notify individuals for breaches impacting over 500 people within 60 days of discovering the problem. For under 500 people, there was no given time to notify.
The HITECH and HIPAA relationship in this area requires that patients receive notifications for any unsecured breach, and it impacts over 500 patients. In addition, the media receives a notification as well as the State Privacy Officer.
The second component relates to penalty structures. HITECH works directly with HIPAA compliance when it comes to noncompliance-covered entities. Before HITECH, a company could pay a fine and simply continue to operate. With HITECH, the fines are much harsher, which helped ensure that providers took steps to become compliant instead of simply paying a fee.
How does HITECH play a role in medical records retrieval, then? In short, there are more steps and more compliance risks in place now for accessing medical records. That means that anyone who needs the records must be aware of the guidelines and rules or face significant fines.
Submit Correct, HIPAA-Compliant Forms
When obtaining medical records, it’s critical to submit the correct forms. Those accessing these documents need to fill out the forms completely as even a simple mistake can slow down the process of getting those records in hand. In addition, filling in these forms typically requires high attention to detail to ensure all the information is accurate. With attention to detail, the entire process is smoother and faster.
Forms need to be HIPAA-compliant. This is especially true for electronic records. If you are hoping to send a form to request medical records, call the medical organization beforehand. Inquire about the right place to send the form to ensure there is no risk of compliance issues related to who receives such forms.
Follow Up on Requests for Medical Records
Obtaining documents quickly may be the goal, but there are several steps to this process. First, providers have 30 days from the date they receive the medical record request to respond to it. In some situations, those records may not be readily accessible. They may not be accessible at the site of the provider either. When this is the case, a medical provider has up to 60 days to respond to the request.
That is a lot of time. After submitting the request, it’s often helpful to simply confirm that the right facility received the request. Be sure it is in the hands of the right provider and that the form is received in the method that the provider can use. Then, simply ask when to expect the provider to fulfill the request.
Many times, access to electronic medical records is much faster. Of course, there is still a good amount of time for the provider to process these requests, but many can turn them around sooner than paper documents.
Keep track of the date that you submitted the record. Then, follow up to ensure the provider completes it on time. After some time, it’s a good idea to give the provider the space they need to complete the process.
Know the Cost of Getting Medical Records
Is there a cost for obtaining a medical record? The answer here is yes; there can be. Both HIPAA and HITECH prohibit excessive or unreasonable fees. Medical records providers can still charge a fee for the time and materials needed to access the files. According to HIPAA, a flat fee of $6.50 is allowable – some other fee structures may also apply.
Create a Medical Record Retrieval Process
In some situations, it’s necessary to file this type of medical record request numerous times, such as in a law firm where patient records need to be accessed frequently. Those who need to do this numerous times may wish to streamline the process to make it more efficient and better managed overall. Therefore, a system that organizes the process and keeps track of such requests can be critical.
The investment in a standardized process like this helps reduce the number of mistakes and may speed up the turnaround time for such requests. It doesn’t have to be a complex process, either. For example, it may include a simple process checklist or a set of notes outlining all the necessary details. Keeping track of all client notes and providing requests can also help reduce frustrations.
Keep in mind that having a standard retrieval process for medical history and records can help minimize missing information. Virtually anyone in the industry recognizes that shortages in office and staff mean limited availability to handle tasks like this. Even with a written request, mistakes happen, and the number of business days before an office responds can quickly increase.
Having a standard process to manage these requests from a doctor or hospital makes it possible to track when it’s time to follow up. That way, insurance companies, law firms, or others who need those forms can’t say they didn’t receive them in time.
Review the Medical Records to Ensure Accuracy
Once a doctor’s office responds to the form, take action as soon as possible. Staff should receive an alert about any concerns right away in the hopes of getting the physician or facilities team to address them quickly.
When healthcare providers send over this information, look at it in detail. Be sure that all requested information is on hand. In addition, be sure that the information you are looking for is in the documents provided. Sometimes, copies of medical records are at various locations, or a person may have visited numerous doctors’ offices in the past. Also, medical records may have a different address, date of birth, or full name on them – due to human errors. That can also slow down the collection of accurate information.
If there are problems or concerns, now is the time to request more information and support from the provider. Ask for corrections and clarifications right away when needed. Then, when necessary, follow up with the healthcare provider for additional information. Again, make this a component of the process you follow, so there is no delay in getting the info.
Partner With HIPAA-Compliant, Streamlined Services
There is no doubt that obtaining records like this can be challenging, thanks to federal laws and even state laws in some cases. From test results to finding the new doctor a person used, it’s difficult to track down every bit of information needed. Even if you wish to obtain a copy of your medical records just to maintain them, getting the results is often a long process.
That’s why there are benefits to turning to a third party for help. For example, CAMG has a database with over 90,000 healthcare facilities located around the country. Using a third party can make getting necessary medical information far easier than most would expect. In addition, it can make the retrieval process itself more efficient.
The core benefits of using this service include speed and time management. Just like doctors’ offices that lack time and staff, most insurance companies, law firms, and others are busy as well. Instead of managing the limitations of health information technology laws and getting the medical record information you need, it’s easier to allow a third party, who can better manage the process, to do the work for you. It may even help to limit the number of compliance risks your organization faces as well.
Find the Help You Need to Get Medical Records Fast
It doesn’t take long to learn how CAMG can streamline the process of obtaining medical record information for you. You don’t have to try to figure out what you can and cannot ask for or how to properly protect the identity of others.
Our intake services, contract services, and medical records division are available to help you. Speak with one of our sales associates at (800) 200-CAMG, or reach out to us here to learn how we can help you today.