Exploring Driver #5 of the “5 Things You Must Know Now About Release of Health Information

By: Linda Kloss, MA, RHIA, FAHIMA

People are becoming better informed about their rights and the value of information to inform health and healthcare decisions.   Increase in personal health spending is one reason consumers are becoming better informed.  So is the growing understanding that it’s wise to be knowledgeable and involved in one’s health and healthcare decisions.  Release of Information (ROI) teams see this trend firsthand with the growing number of requests for records from patients.

ROI is on the front line in helping patients become smart health information consumers. Patient requests will continue to increase and they will expect a reasonable customer service experience in requesting and obtaining records.  Those responsible for ROI should be monitoring changing requirements, exploring best practices and planning for innovation in a future-focused way.

Earlier blogs examined the value of standardizing ROI across the health care enterprise to improve quality and compliance.  Enterprise ROI also improves customer satisfaction and contributes to an organization’s patient engagement objectives.   Regardless of whether the patient initiates a request at the physician’s office or hospital, the request process should be the same and the patient should be able to secure the requested information without going from site to site.  Verisma clients are realizing quantifiable improvement in customer satisfaction, improved compliance, accuracy, and cost management by deploying ROI technology and consistent policy and process across the enterprise.   If full standardization is not possible for your organization, use ROI technology to unify the process as fully as possible and plan to further centralize over time.

The next wave of innovation will be self-service functionality enabling patients and other authorized requestors to request medical records via web at their convenience.  There will be no need to stand in line or to fill out a paper form.  Done well, self-service request apps use state of the art security, identity verification, and preserve a record of transactions.  As with enterprise ROI, Verisma clients are now introducing self-service into ROI thereby helping patients gain access to health information while also stepping up security and accountability.

Patients may want ease of access to their information, but they don’t want to trade off their privacy rights to gain it.  Recent research found that 49% of US online adults are concerned about the privacy of their healthcare information when using on line tools.[1]  On line request apps must meet HIPAA requirements and maintain a high bar for identity management and the accommodation of patients’ disclosure preferences. If implemented properly, request apps can help educate patients in the exercise of their rights process.  ROI teams can do a great deal to help educate patients about their rights, and a valuable source of educational materials is with HHS.[2] Proactive education about privacy rights and your organization’s practices benefits all.

HIM managers should evaluate the request process from the patients’ perspective.

  1. What data are available on volume of requests at various provider settings across the network?
  2. How similar or dissimilar is the patient experience at various settings?
  3. How does staff in various settings respond to a set of “test” questions that patients might pose that require working knowledge of HIPAA privacy regulations?
  4. How can customer facing processes be improved through greater standardization, through technology, education and request apps?

This is our final post in the “5 Things You Must Know Now About Release of Health Information” series.  Should you have any comments or questions please e-mail us at solutions@verisma.com.


[1] Khatibloo, F., Forester Research in testimony before the NCVHS, September 13, 2017, (https://www.ncvhs.hhs.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Sep-13-@115pm-Khatibloo-Beyond-HIPAA-Statement.pdf)

[2] Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers/index.html)