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Expert offers these tips on cleaning up records area
Allowing enough time is crucial
It doesn’t matter whether a natural disaster, an accreditation survey, or simply the growing avalanche of files prompt a hospital’s HIM department to plan a major clean-up of medical records, because there are certain strategies that can make this job easier and more efficient.
David Wright, director of HIM services for Precyse Solutions of King of Prussia, PA, a company that specializes in medical records clean-ups, offers these tips for making sure the job is done well:
1. Give yourself enough time.
Precyse does backlog management, including assembly, analysis, merging, purging, and chart conversions. The company typically is called in when the backlog of files indicates years of neglect, Wright says.
If this is an HIM department’s situation, Wright’s advice is to start the clean-up project as early as possible, preferably a year prior to the Joint Commission survey. Starting late makes the cost much greater, Wright adds.
2. Know how bad the problem is.
The HIM and medical records directors need to know how big of a problem the backlog poses.
"It comes down to making sure they fully understand what their needs are when they contact a backlog management contractor," Wright says. "But we’re more than happy to come in and do an assessment for them."
Backlog management companies, such as Precyse, also can offer analysis services and Joint Commission preparedness services.
3. Prioritize what you want done.
Typically, a hospital will have a limited budget for what can be spent to fix the problem, so the HIM staff in charge will need to know what the most important goals to be accomplished are.
"You really need to know what the Joint Commission expectations are," Wright says. "Have these written into the budget so they won’t reach a crisis point; know what the repercussions of neglect are over time."
If some top priorities are left out of the project because of the cost, then the hospital may end up paying more for these problems somewhere down the road, Wright adds.
4. Be aware of privacy concerns.
A backlog management project, whether done by a hospital’s own staff or a contractor’s staff, should include training and education for staff on the federal privacy regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
"We educate all staff members in confidentiality requirements and have them sign confidentiality covenants and statements so they’re fully aware of the repercussions of a breach of confidentiality, and we work with the facility on that," Wright says.