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Avoiding HIPAA Compliance Issues In Medical Offices

HIPAA compliance issues and the importance of electronic medical records.

HIPAA compliance issues and the importance of electronic medical records.Between HIPAA documents, insurance forms, billing papers and patient records, the healthcare industry is buried in paper – and it continues to pile up.

File management for medical records and personal health information is as big of an issue as it ever was, but it’s becoming even more pressing every day.

Do you have control of medical records, and do you have the processes in place to prove it? If so, how confident are you that they being followed?

Where There’s Lack Of Process, There’s Liability

Not having a clear process – or having a process and not using it – for storing, managing and disposing of medical documents is a liability issue.

At a Manhattan health center, patient information in paper form was found in trash bags outside the facility. Private medical documents containing the phone number, address and medical history of numerous patients were carelessly inside and beside dumpsters.

Such a display of carelessness from facility workers – who may not have known any better – created a major HIPAA compliance issue. In response to the found documents, a corporate representative of the office said, “When documents containing PHI (personal healthy information) are discarded, they are to be placed in locked bins and then shredded. Unfortunately, our procedures were not followed at our senior health center.”

If this center had clearer procedures for the management and destruction of medical records – in both paper and electronic form – these kinds of liability issues would have been eliminated.

A Focus On Electronic Documents And Digital Processes

Medical records storage in the form of electronic document management provides healthcare centers with a robust medical records management system and accompanying digital processes.

While some medical offices may be using electronic systems for some stages of the patient lifecycle, these systems are typically focused on a single process and possess limited document management functionality.

The value behind implementing a document management system in a healthcare setting is that the system is compatible with others throughout the organization. A document management system acts as a central repository for organization-wide information, where patient, staff and billing functions may all be handled from one place. This improves the efficiency and accuracy of document-centric tasks, from submitting insurance claims to reconciling office visit payments. In all of these workflows, the routing of the information to the proper person in the process is done automatically, saving time and costs.

In medical facilities, medical records management is all about creating and protecting access. Doctors and staff need to be able to view patient information quickly and efficiently to provide optimum service and patient care. At the same time, the facility itself needs the ability to show an audit trail of who accessed what document when and what changes were made to it.

Moving Toward Compliant Electronic Management Of Medical Records

In the healthcare industry, effective electronic document management meets HIPAA requirements by tracking who stored each document and the document storage date, as well as who accessed the document and each access date. Access rights may be assigned automatically to each electronic medical record or on an as-needed basis. Overall, security for medical records may be easily managed based on document type and electronic file cabinet.

When a regulated environment has clear, simple procedures that are easy to follow, concerns over compliance issues turn into a focus on patient care and comfort, enabling you to ensure a patient experience that surpasses other offices.

Beyond strengthening compliance, electronic document management also:

  • Reduces costs and enhances anytime-anywhere information access
  • Automates back-office and point-of-care processes
  • Removes paperwork hassles and strengthens process efficiencies

Learn more about the advantages of digitizing paper-based filing systems and quickly instituting paperless processes in your medical office.

How to use Become a Paperless Office