A New Day for Release of Healthcare Information

By: Linda Kloss, MA, RHIA, FAHIMA

Historically known as a ‘back office’ HIM function, release of Information (ROI) policies and processes are gaining greater attention for three key reasons:

  1. The number of requests for information and the volume of information per request continue to increase.

People are more aware of the importance of accessing their own information to be informed and engaged participants in their health care. Third party requests are increasing to support a range of expanding uses. While electronic health records (EHRs) and other information technology have digitized PHI, ROI is not accomplished by pushing a button. Information must be retrieved from a range of source systems and it must be reviewed for accuracy and completeness, while assessing responding to requests with the minimum necessary.

  1. New federal access and disclosure guidance promotes patient access, shrinks allowable fees and opens back channels to PHI.

We applaud the 2016 Federal Access and Disclosure Guidance[1] for its focus on increasing individual’s access to their health records. An unintended consequence of the guidance, however, has been an increase in the number of third party requests attempting to circumvent required approaches.   The guidance also reduces allowable fees to the point that they no longer offset the real costs of release functions.

  1. Complex health systems have multiple points of PHI disclosure vulnerability that need to be mitigated.

Each physician practice and hospital that is part of a health system can no longer handle ROI in its own way. Today’s health systems must use consistent policies across the enterprise in order to ensure compliance in protecting the privacy rights of individuals. Health systems must also focus on uniform, efficient practices supported by technology to manage in today’s cost constrained environment.

Whether performed by providers’ own staff or outsourced, there is a need for an end-to-end rethinking of ROI. It is a new day for ROI. Today’s release functions require smart technology to support the end-to-end workflow from receipt of a request through fulfillment. All HIM functions have been profoundly impacted by technology. Technology has elevated staffing for ROI from clerical work to skilled knowledge work. Effective ROI today also requires management tools to monitor and improve productivity and accuracy. It needs compliance guidance and safeguards to ensure that it is being performed according to changing requirements and regulations.

ROI transformation is driven by patients—by all of us—who increasingly rely on timely information for care coordination at home and across our personal networks of care providers. ROI has its roots in the Principles of Fair Information Practice that assert the rights of individuals:

  • to know what information is maintained about them,
  • to obtain a copy in an intelligible form within a reasonable time,
  • to challenge if a request for access is denied or delayed,
  • to have data amended.

HIPAA baked these principles into law and made protected health information (PHI) part of our vocabulary.

Verisma is launching this blog to explore the changing demands and opportunities of this new day for ROI. Over the coming months, authors will focus on key drivers of ROI change, spotlighting solutions and emerging best-practices in the industry.   We hope you will engage with the authors, sharing your thoughts and insights. Together we can accelerate the transformation and modernization of the future of ROI in healthcare.

[1] https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/access/index.html

Verisma Launches First Online Request App

Verisma Request App (VRA) Simplifies the Medical Records Request Process for Patients

Verisma, the leader in release of information (ROI) automation systems for the healthcare industry, today announced the launch of an industry first – the Verisma Request App (VRA) – a self-service online request solution targeted to the specific needs of not just patients, but all types of requestors. VRA gives healthcare providers an additional tool for improving patient satisfaction by making the medical records request process available 24/7.  Ultimately VRA will facilitate not only automated requests but also automated fulfillment of requests.

Verisma is taking a phased approach to launching the new app. VRA Phase I focuses on patient access, specifically requests for medical records by patients and patient representatives. Via the hospital’s website or patient portal, patients and their representatives complete an intuitive online authorization form that replaces the current process of completing the form by hand and mailing it, faxing it, or delivering it to the provider. From the provider’s perspective, VRA helps drive traffic to the patient portal.

One of the challenges with paper authorization forms is they don’t educate the patients and their representatives about what they are signing. Patients and their representatives may not understand what it means to authorize the release of sensitive information such as that relating to mental health and substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, genetic testing, or STDs. VRA helps providers mitigate this risk by including easy-to-understand, customizable descriptions with hyperlinks to additional information.

Verisma continues to strengthen its reputation as the industry leader in disclosure management security and compliance with the introduction of VRA. VRA is architected for 100% compliance with HIPAA, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). It requires multi-factor authentication and digital signature without making the processes burdensome to the patient or the patient’s representative.

Once the patient or their representative submits the online form, the data automatically creates a transaction in Verisma Release Manager (VRM) – the company’s flagship ROI Automation offering – thereby eliminating a significant number of steps performed on the front-end by the Release of Information Specialist. Since VRM and VRA are EHR-neutral, the request is easily fulfilled regardless of where the records reside (current EHR, legacy EHR, paper, or off-site storage).

“Verisma is innovating release of information from the patient’s perspective,” explains Andrew McManus, Senior Vice President of Verisma. “With VRA, hospitals will experience substantial ROI workflow efficiencies and greater productivity for their HIM departments. VRA significantly decreases the time, and in some cases the costs, for patients to receive their records. Overall, VRA is an automated medical records request process that maintains compliance and security, and ultimately improves requestor, patient, and provider satisfaction.”

Additional features include:

  • The ability for patients to request documents from any dates of service regardless of the source of the information
  • Online guidance embedded in the form, ensuring accuracy and completeness
  • Customized branding ensuring continuity within the provider’s website or patient portal

“VRA represents a big step forward for patients seeking greater access to their medical records beyond the data points available in EHR portals,” states Linda Kloss, RHIA, a health information thought leader and member of the Verisma Strategic Advisory Board. “It is also a big advance for ROI management.  Productivity and cost control are essential in ROI today, but they can’t be achieved at the expense of compliance short cuts.”

About Verisma

Verisma is a health information technology provider focused on delivering unparalleled Release of Information (ROI) solutions to the healthcare industry. The company’s flagship ROI Automation System, Verisma® Release Manager (VRM), is utilized by well-known health care organizations nationwide. VRM automates workflow to improve turnaround times, reduce errors, and drive down costs – effectively automating medical records release while delivering comprehensive release audit capabilities. It is the only release technology with integrated HIPAA guidance and compliance review support. For additional information, please visit our website at www.verisma.com, call 866-390-7404, email solutions@verisma.com or visit us at the AHIMA National Convention in booth #2213 for a VRA demo.