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Upgrade Your Release of Information Process in 2024

Upgrade Your Release of Information Process in 2024

If you are falling behind on your medical record requests, it may be time to check whether your release of information process is the culprit.

Not providing a timely response to medical records requests can lead to dissatisfied patients and steep financial penalties. Upgrading your release of information process is important to avoid major issues and stay compliant with the constantly changing regulations.

In this article, we’ll discuss key reasons why you should consider upgrading how you release records in 2024 and provide tips to help future-proof your release of information process.

What is the Function of Release of Information?

The Release of Information (ROI) serves as a process to ensure the secure and compliant sharing of protected health information (PHI). Federal and state regulations govern release of information processes to protect patient privacy when disclosing medical records.

Healthcare providers must fulfill their legal and ethical obligations while providing essential access to their medical information.

Why are Medical Records Requested?

There are countless reasons a healthcare provider may receive a request for medical records. Common examples include:

  • Patients seeking second opinions or following through with specialist referrals,
  • Insurance companies submitting documentation for claim reimbursement purposes,
  • Legal professionals pursuing cases related to worker’s compensation or personal injury cases,
  • Patients or guardians trying to stay informed about their health or create personal health records.

Regardless of the reason, healthcare providers must address these requests and deliver them promptly and efficiently.

Regulations Promoting Faster Release of Information Process

Over the years, there have been changes in laws and regulations that aim to promote faster and more secure release of medical records. In addition to HIPAA, there are two significant updates to keep in mind: the 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule and the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative.

21st Century Cures Act Final Rule

The 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule, effective April 5, 2021, aims to improve patients’ access to their medical records by implementing stricter regulations for healthcare providers.

On November 1, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a proposal for new information blocking disincentives. The proposed rule, titled “21st Century Cures Act: Establishment of Disincentives for Health Care Providers That Have Committed Information Blocking,” follows up on the recent information blocking final rule for health IT developers.

The proposed rule calls for a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

When a healthcare provider is suspected of information blocking, OIG will investigate to determine the situation. If OIG determines that the provider did commit information blocking, they will refer the healthcare provider to the “appropriate agency.” 

HIPAA Right of Access Initiative and Privacy Rule

The Right of Access Initiative is a 2019 OCR declaration that set its focus on enforcing Privacy Rule regulations. More specifically, they want to ensure that patients can access their medical records without unreasonable cost or delay.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule is a fundamental regulation that protects the privacy of all patients’ medical records and other personal health information maintained by covered entities, including healthcare providers who conduct certain electronic health-related transactions.

In 2021, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) requested feedback regarding a 2020 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). This proposal included many changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, some of which are directly pertinent to the Right of Access Initiative.

A few of the many of proposed changes relevant to the Right of Access Initiative include:

  • Reducing request fulfillment deadlines from 30 days to 15 days
  • Allowing patients to inspect, photograph, and take notes about their PHI in person
  • Update the Notice of Privacy Practices to include details on accessing health information, filing a HIPAA complaint, and contacting a designated individual for inquiries
  • Confirming requestor may direct a covered entity to send their ePHI to a personal health application
  • Transparency on covered entity websites about fee schedule estimations

4 Reasons to Upgrade Your ROI Process in 2024

2024 may include sweeping regulatory changes to accommodate an increasingly digital healthcare landscape. It’s a coming transformation that requires fast adaptability on your part.

Proactively updating your release of information process will help you stay compliant and provide timely access to patients.

1. Enhanced Data Security and Compliance

The threat of data breaches poses a significant risk. A 2023 report by IBM found that the average cost of a healthcare data breach has reached nearly $11 million. This marks an 8% increase from the previous year and a 53% jump since 2020.

Such breaches lead to financial loss and noncompliance with HIPAA, a major set of regulations designed to safeguard patient data and rights. In particular, the Privacy and Security Rules.

Some of the other risks associated with insecure data that impact providers and patients include:

  • Data breaches can damage your reputation and lead to a loss of trust among patients
  • Patient data compromises can lead to identity theft, which directly impacts their financial wellbeing
  • Violating the HIPAA Privacy Rule can lead to significant fines and penalties
  • Data breaches severely disrupt operations and hurt your ability to provide timely care to patients

Upgrading your Release of Information process mitigates these risks in several ways:

  1. Robust Encryption and Security Protocols: Implementing advanced encryption methods ensures breached data is unreadable to protect PHI from cyberthreats.
  2. Enhanced Access Controls: Upgraded systems can employ stricter access controls, ensuring that only authorized personnel can access specific types of information. This reduces the risk of internal data breaches.
  3. Regular Compliance Audits: Automated compliance tools integrated into the ROI process can regularly scan for potential compliance issues, ensuring your team can promptly address any regulatory deviations.
  4. Audit Trail: By automatically logging access and changes to data, healthcare providers can quickly identify and respond to unauthorized or suspicious activities, mitigating potential breaches.
  5. Patient-Centric Data Portability: An upgraded ROI process can facilitate safer and more efficient transfer of PHI between providers and patients. This also aligns with the increasing demand for patient-centered care models and compliance with the 21st Century Cures Act.

2. Streamlining Operations with Advanced Technology

Imagine a backlog of hundreds of medical records requests being processed at a snail’s pace.

This is the usual situation with traditional, paper-based medical record release methods. This process can create several obstacles in healthcare operations, including:

  • Manual processes like printing, scanning, and mailing are time-consuming and prone to errors.
  • Storing paper records on-site can be costly and make records susceptible to physical risks such as natural disasters or theft.
  • Paper records may lead to inconsistent data entry practices, making maintaining a comprehensive patient record difficult.

According to a study by BLR, managing paper copies of documents can cost a business up to $20 in labor for every file.

Upgrading your ROI process with advanced technology can solve many of these issues. Digital solutions that embrace automation and cloud storage can help streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve efficiency.

  1. Automation: Automated workflows can significantly reduce the time it takes to process requests for medical records. This frees up valuable staff hours that can be allocated towards more critical tasks.
  2. Cloud Storage: Moving from physical storage to cloud-based storage can make records more accessible and reduce the risk of physical damage or loss.
  3. Efficient Data Entry: Digital systems with standardized data entry formats ensure consistency in record-keeping, facilitating easier tracking and retrieval of information for legal purposes.
  4. Real-Time Tracking: Advanced ROI solutions offer real-time tracking of requests, providing healthcare providers with better visibility into their operations.
  5. Revenue Cycle Management: Faster release of information can expedite billing processes, improving revenue cycle management.
  6. Compliance: Electronic ROI systems are designed to align with compliance requirements, reducing potential legal risks.
  7. Interoperability with Other Systems: Electronic systems can easily integrate with EHRs and other digital health platforms.

3. Improving Patient Access and Satisfaction

Imagine getting off the phone after talking to an irate and snarky patient who called you for the 10th time this month regarding her medical records.

The next time she calls and doesn’t get the answers she wants, she might file a complaint for information blocking, which will soon lead to investigations and financial disincentives.

Delayed access to medical records is a grave offense in an increasingly digital healthcare landscape. It puts a glaring target on your organization’s back and can damage your reputation. Ignoring your outdated release of information process can also cost you new and existing patients.

Not convinced? The 2022 Healthcare Trends Report revealed that 72% of consumers use online ratings and reviews when looking for a new healthcare provider.

Upgrading your ROI process can improve patient access and satisfaction in the following ways:

  1. Faster Turnaround Time: With advanced technology, healthcare providers can release medical records faster and more accurately, reducing patient wait times.
  2. Digital Access: Electronic methods offer patients easier and faster access to their medical records, promoting transparency and trust.
  3. Ease of Sharing Records: With digital sharing, patients can share their records with other healthcare providers more efficiently, promoting better continuity and coordination of care.
  4. Improved Customer Service: Implementing a streamlined ROI process can reduce the workload for staff and improve responsiveness to patient inquiries, leading to enhanced customer service.
  5. Patient-Centered Care Models: Upgraded ROI processes align with patient-centered care models, promoting better engagement and satisfaction. 

The rapid advancement of technology in healthcare necessitates an upgrade in the release of information process. According to a Black Book survey, however, 80% of healthcare providers do not use data analytics and decision-making tools. 

This can lead to several problems, including:

  • Hindered Decision-Making: Without proper data analytics, healthcare organizations may not have access to crucial insights, leading to uninformed decision-making.
  • Inefficient Operations: Analytics can identify inefficiencies in healthcare operations. Without it, these inefficiencies may go unnoticed, wasting resources and poor patient outcomes.
  • Increased Costs: Without data-driven insights to guide cost management strategies, healthcare organizations may face unnecessary expenditures.
  • Inadequate Patient Care: Predictive analytics can help identify risk factors and predict outcomes, enabling proactive care. A lack of analytics could lead to reactive care with worse outcomes.
  • Non-compliance: Analytics can help healthcare organizations comply with regulatory standards by providing the necessary data to meet reporting requirements.

Upgrading your ROI process with advanced technology can help you leverage the power of data analytics. This also helps you provide valuable insights to improve operations and services.

Some industry trends that can improve when you upgrade your ROI process include:

  1. Telehealth: With the rise in telehealth services, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in the need for digital medical records. A survey by McKinsey indicated that 76% of patients are now more likely to use telehealth services, enhancing the urgency of seamlessly sharing data.
  2. Efficiency and Productivity: New technologies can streamline administrative tasks, reduce paperwork, and eliminate redundancies, leading to increased efficiency and productivity.
  3. Patient-Generated Health Data: The use of patient-generated health data (PGHD) is on the rise, with more patients tracking their health using mobile apps and wearable devices. Keeping up with this trend requires an updated ROI process that can handle the influx of diverse data sources.

Preparing for the Future with ChartRequest

The healthcare landscape is constantly evolving. New technologies are created, and constant updates with HIPAA and the 21st Century Cures Act affect how we release medical records.

ChartRequest always stands at the forefront of this change, ready to revolutionize the ROI process. Our solution is designed to align with the future of ROI in multiple ways:

  1. Electronic Health Information Exchange: ChartRequest allows healthcare providers to electronically request and receive health information securely, efficiently, and cost-effectively.
  2. Data Security and Operational Efficiency: Our platform emphasizes data security and operational efficiency. We pay constant attention to these critical aspects of health information management.
  3. Positive Patient Experience: ChartRequest has features aimed at improving patient experiences, such as automated alerts and notifications to reduce status call updates. Our omnichannel communication helps eliminate the needless inquiry.
  4. Fast turnaround: We understand the importance of speed in releasing medical records, which is why our platform facilitates rapid fulfillment of requests. Our streamlined process also helps reduce turnaround time by minimizing manual tasks.
  5. Support for Different File Types: ChartRequest supports all types of imaging files, including DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine), and can export them to more accessible formats like PDF.

Ready to Maximize Efficiency and Compliance in Your Release of Information Process?

In an age where data security, patient access, compliance, and technological advancement shape the healthcare landscape, falling behind in your ROI process is not an option. You can start 2024 strongly by upgrading your release of information process.

Don’t just keep up with changes. Be proactive in enhancing your healthcare services’ efficiency, security, and patient-centricity.

By joining ChartRequest, the #1 release of information solution, you join a vast network of patients, healthcare organizations, and third-party requestors who benefit from industry-leading turnaround times and unparalleled support.

Why settle for the status quo when you can revolutionize your ROI process? Achieve the perfect synergy of security, speed, and compliance to stay ahead of the curve and offer your patients and stakeholders unmatched service.

We invite you to take a definitive step toward the future of healthcare by booking a free demo today to see how we can help your team achieve a better release of information process.

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