Why imaging medical records can help meet HIPAA requirements and provide optimum patient care

Minimize paperwork

Mounds of paper and documentation are the main components of medical billing and medical records. When a patient receives treatment, they (and all associated parties) begin to accumulate what could amount to thousands of computer entries and coordinating paper work. But how to organize and manage these documents in a way that lets your medical staff quickly review any patient’s state of care? By imaging medical records.

Digitizing medical documents throughout the lifecycle of treatment streamlines patient care.

 

Imaging medical records also can facilitate the management and adherence to HIPAA’s security and privacy rules, including rules related to patient emails.

Imaging Medical Records Reduces Confusion
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The paper chase

After a patient engages with their healthcare provider, a series of documents and workflows are triggered. As the patient sees their physician and receives care, each encounter is entered into their medical record. Billing personnel then receive that record of treatment and begin the billing process.

Patients sign off on an AOB (assignment of benefits), which relinquishes all payments from their health insurance to a specified entity. In most cases, this is their healthcare provider or a hospital. This document starts the payment process.

Many times, if the patient doesn’t sign the AOB and return it to the insurance company within a specific window of time, the medical practitioner loses revenue. That’s because without the patient’s signature or approval, the doctor or hospital can’t bill the insurance company.

On the back end of this process, after treatment has been received and billed, is the EOB (explanation of benefits). Patients receive this document — an itemized statement of each treatment entry and its associated approval or denial. Denied treatments require further investigation by the billing organization and more so by the patient, potentially delaying needed medical services.

HIPAA law protects access to and use of information about patients’ diagnoses and treatment.

 

Therefore, the individuals handling this documentation should have the authority to view only what is necessary to do their jobs. If mismanaged, these records can cause serious HIPAA violations.

Imaging medical records: From paper to PC

The digitization of medical documents allows paper copies to be converted into images or pictures and stored electronically. Imaging medical records provides numerous benefits, including:

Saves space. Electronic files take up much less space than physical paper and the cabinets needed to store them. With document imaging, rows or rooms full of filing cabinets containing paper can be eliminated.

Saves time. Locating specific information in an electronic document is nearly instantaneous. Locating the same information in a paper file could take an inordinate amount of time, especially in the case of missing or inaccurate paperwork.

Saves files. In the event of a catastrophic event, like a fire or flood, paper medical records can be lost forever. Digital records can be easily backed up and stored off-site to prevent such catastrophic loss.

When healthcare practitioners and facilities implement imaging medical records, they can improve workflows and better meet timelines.

For example, the when the practitioner receives and images the patient’s assignment of benefits, electronic mechanisms are constructed to tightly track the initial patient sign off and submission dates. Then the document routes over to billing to present to the insurance companies — securing that deadline filing limits are met and revenue continues to flow.

Imaging medical records also helps to ensure that all healthcare practitioners have access to timely, accurate records. The most up-to-date records of test results, medicines prescribed with dosage, and treatments are critical in providing the right care at the right time.

In emergency situations, having the most accurate medical data on a patient’s background can be lifesaving.

 

Access to records that contain a patient’s health history helps the healthcare provider make informed decisions regarding the patient’s care.

Imaging Medical Records Improves Care
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Blocking prying eyes

Imaging medical records can protect health information from unauthorized viewing or modifications. Electronic records are secured with passwords and file access rights, which determine who can see all or how much of document or file. In advanced instances, records are protected by biometric recognition that identifies the reviewer based on a biological aspect unique to the individual.

File access rights make it easy to manage access to protected medical information. For instance, the billing team will only need to see insurance company information and fees, not the patient’s actual diagnosis. Medical specialists need to see all activities in the record to proceed with the services needed.

Electronic records also provide well-documented audit trails.

 

The systems that store these electronic records are heavily protected with several layers of security, logging the details of when a file was accessed, what area of the file was viewed (billing or health information), and by whom (medical professional or administrative employee). In the event that a record was altered inappropriately or released illegally, there will be a clear path as to when the infraction occurred and who was responsible for the breach.

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Fortifying patients’ trust

Patients seek healthcare providers they can trust — both in terms of the provider’s knowledge and experience and their commitment to keeping their medical information private and secure. They also need to know the financial aspects of their medical procedures will be handled swiftly and correctly.

Imaging medical records can help earn that trust.

The above content should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal situation.

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Rose McNeill
Rose has been in the technology world for decades. Her love for learning and investigating how things work allowed her to excel in computer sales and technical support. She has written for Information Week, Paystream Advisors and other professional websites. Raised in the rural area of southern New Jersey, she’s really a country girl at heart. She loves the feel of the wind on her face as she rides her bicycle through the country roads and parks, or sits under the trees and reads book on her culture’s history, alternative health or metaphysics. Other pastimes are golf (the greens are hypnotic to her), open air concerts, and spending vacations and holidays with family and friends. One of the best gifts she ever received was the birth of her son on Mother’s Day 1980. She currently resides in Michigan.