3 Key Takeaways from the Technology Survey…and One Easy Fix!

The 2016 Tech Report was released by Physicians Practice last month and includes the tabulated responses of more than 1,500 physicians and practice managers from across the country. Physicians Practice, an award-winning online and print resource for providers and their staff, conducts an annual technology survey and has released it to the public for the first time ever this year.

According to respondents,

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How does your healthcare organization compare on these points? If your organization has similar headaches, DataFile can help! DataFile can help you optimize the use of your EHR and can likely help you see more patients each day. DataFile provides turnkey solutions to streamline, standardize and centralize health information management and clinical workflows for healthcare organizations of all types and sizes.

Many DataFile clients report that the use of our eFile services and our 24-hour turnaround time for Release of Information services has afforded them the opportunity to work on higher priority projects and see more patients.

And what if you could realize this benefit WITHOUT adding new technology? DataFile doesn’t require any integration, interface or on-site resource consumption. Want to learn more? Click here to send a quick email to ask a question or request a demo.

Is Your EHR Fully Optimized?

A recent study published in the American Action Forum says probably not… (insert anxiety-filled gasp for air!)

You know firsthand about the high costs of purchasing an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system.  And the implementation and utilization of EHRs bring their own weighty costs and challenges.   And with as many as 60% of EHR purchasers last year REPLACING current EHR systems, healthcare organizations are once again spending more time and more money learning and deploying new systems and adjusting their workflows.

You’ve already spent a lot of money!  Now, ensuring optimization of your EHR is a critical component to improving the financial performance of your organization. Did you know that DataFile can help your organization save time, save money and eliminate headaches by optimizing your EHR?

Our clients utilizing DataFile for our eFile services report that the use of those services and our 24-hour turnaround time for Release of Information services has helped them to both optimize their EHR and optimize their staff.  DataFile has afforded them the opportunity to work on higher priority projects and see more patients.  DataFile is an expert superuser of all types of EHR systems.  We are fast, accurate and – most importantly – we are not prone to the countless interruptions that your staff must navigate every day.

Do the math!  If you to take an additional 60 seconds more per patient visit to complete the associated/required workflow tasks within the EHR than what our superuser DataFile staff takes to complete the same tasks, that equates to about 30 minutes per day.  Could you put that same 30 minutes per day to better use by seeing patients instead?  If you’re getting $75 per visit, then its $150 per day…and suddenly that 60 seconds per visit is costing your practice as much as $30,000 per year!

Are you using our eFile Services to fully optimize your EHR?

Are your clinicians able to access complete records at critical moments? Are your staff able to focus on patient care rather than administrative burdens that come along with EHR conversion and/or utilization?

If you can’t confidently answer YES to those few questions (or, you’re just not sure), it may be time to run a diagnostic test with one of our solutions specialists or email solutions@datafiletechnologies.com.  They’ll ask more in-depth questions and provide you with a better understanding of your level of EHR optimization—and what savings may be possible with the addition of our eFile services to your DataFile portfolio.

Meaningful Use Hardship Exception Process Updates

electronic-filesand a computer mouseIn an earlier blog post titled New MU Exemptions for 2015 Reporting Periods, DataFile alerted you to the new Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act law.  This legislation allows for Eligible Providers who were unable to attest to Meaningful Use for 90 days in 2015 to declare an exception in order to avoid a 2017 payment adjustment.

CMS recently issued guidance that Eligible Providers who experienced an issue with their Certified Electronic Health Record Technology related to the rule timing – and any other provider for whom the timing of the rule caused a significant hardship – should select sub-category 2.2d on the 2017 Hardship Exception Application. No additional documentation is required for this selection according to CMS FAQ 14113.  Additional instructions for completing the Hardship Exception Application can be found here.

If you have questions about how the Hardship Exception may apply to your organization, please contact our Meaningful Use Expert, Kathryn Ayers Wickenhauser, at Kathryn.Wickenhauser@DataFileTechnologies.com for assistance.

A Unique Look at HIPAA Identifiers

We know that keeping your patients’ health information safe is at the top of your priority list, and you’re going to jump through the HIPAA-designated hoops necessary to ensure that happens. But all too often, it feels like you’re wasting time on bureaucracy when you could be tending to the needs of your patients.

Here at DataFile, we are always looking for ways to ensure our services are truly taking the burden off of our clients whenever and wherever possible. Well, we’ve found another way! We’ve perfected the easiest way to adhere to the HHS HIPAA Security Rules “unique identifier” clause– section 164.312(a) – which states that a user with access to electronic protected health information must have a unique name/number for identification and tracking. This way, in the case of a breach or audit, the exact user who accessed ePHI at a given time can be identified.

Though most practices interpret the “unique identifier” rule somewhat narrowly to mean the practice must create specific identification for each separate person, DataFile’s sophisticated technology and tracking mechanisms allow us to identify unique users within our own network – eliminating the need for our clients to create several different users within their system. Our clients have the option of creating one “generic” DataFile login for all trusted users within our company. From there, our internal system is comprehensive enough to pinpoint the actual person who accessed ePHI on our end.

We encourage our current and future clients to leverage the Business Associate Agreement to its fullest as designated by the HITECH Act. DataFile has a unique ID for all of our users, and they have to log into our network before they log into any of our clients – meaning we will always know who accessed each of our clients’ information with exact date and time details. (See this document.) Our advanced technology allows for fulfillment of the regulations without extra work on our clients’ end.

We know the main reason our clients outsource to us is to save time and money, while safeguarding against HIPAA infractions or administrative hiccups due to high turnover in medical record positions. We want to take that a step further by reducing even more of the work for practices, eliminating the need to create new users for every member of our cross-trained staff. We work hard to promote the best management of your medical records — and therefore, create a more complete outsourcing experience for you.

DataFile has the industry knowledge and legal documentation to provide any proof needed for HIPAA-mandated unique identifier compliance, whether audit-induced or requested by the practice. We’re proud to provide clients with the fullest-coverage outsourcing option in the industry. If you’d like to learn more about how we can reduce records processing and many other burdens on your practice, call one of our knowledgeable team members today at 816-437-9134.

Client Spotlight – See how a real East Texas practice is using technology and outsourcing to save money

East Texas Family Medicine

The funny, genuinely kind group of people that comprise East Texas Family Medicine in the “other” Palestine pride themselves on offering state-of-the-art technology with extraordinary patient care. East Texas is a four-physician practice that focuses on comprehensive family medicine. Founded in 1991, ETFM was the medical community trailblazer in their eastern Texas town, focusing primarily on pediatrics and delivering babies. While they don’t deliver babies anymore, the core values of the practice have remained the same as they garner respect from area residents and patients who stay faithful for years.

Danny Allison, practice administrator at ETFM, is always looking for ways to utilize technology that cost-effectively helps the practice run more smoothly while providing exemplary patient care. Allison says the practice migrated to an electronic medical records system in 2002, “way before it was cool” to do so. East Texas is so dedicated to effectively using technology in their practice that they were awarded second place for Microsoft’s MSHUG (Microsoft Health Users Group) Award in 2006. The MSHUG award recognizes practices that use technology to “enhance and transform the quality of patient care.”

The technology-savvy practice is excited to utilize everything the industry has to offer in order to provide better care for patients. “I love to live on the edge,” says Allison. “And [the doctors] aren’t afraid to walk out there with me…I think that’s one of the things that makes us very successful: the doctors are not afraid of trying new things.”

A year and a half ago, that draw toward being technologically connected, as well as the desire to counter the vast amount of time employees were spending on medical records, led East Texas to DataFile Technologies. Originally, they partnered with us for release of information request fulfillment and, more recently, the practice also signed up for our eFiling service.

ETFM loves being able to tell records requestors that they can call DataFile directly for record request status updates, saving the practice time and money. “We’ve had people call in asking for their records, and all we have to do is simply say, ‘Here’s the phone number you need to call, thank you!’ Instead of, ‘Sorry, the dog ate that,’” Allison jokes.

Learn more about the folks at East Texas Family Medicine, P.A. on their website. Wanna nominate your practice or another of our outstanding clients for a future spotlight? Drop us a line now!

How to Put 3rd Party Retrieval Companies on Your Do Not Call List

Frustrated CallerWhen we talk to customers, a common grievance we hear is, “We’re being bombarded by third party retrieval companies wanting to know the status on their records requests. They call multiple times a day, and it’s so frustrating!” So when we say there’s a way to eliminate those calls and put those companies on a “Do Not Call” list we often hear, “You’re kidding me, you can do that?!?”

Stop the pesky calls, and your frustration. DataFile can help you eliminate these types of calls and put companies like EMSI, MediConnect, PDC Retrievals and ExamOne on a Do Not Call list – freeing up your phone lines for more important people…like your patients!

Here are three proactive steps you can take to eliminate excessive calls from third party retrieval companies at your office:

1.    Let DataFile Know
The first and most important thing to do when you get excessive calls from a third party retrieval company is to inform DataFile of the situation so your staff doesn’t have to deal with it. We are in a position to contact that company on your behalf and inform the requestor not to call you for status updates (in essence fighting the fight for you), so you can focus on more important things in your day.

2.    Politely Inform the Caller & Hang Up
The second thing to do after you’ve notified us, is to politely let the person calling from the third party retrieval company know that you work with DataFile and inform them that they are on a “Do Not Call” list. Then you can politely hang up and let out a sigh of relief…the hard part is over, and they should not be calling to bug you anymore.

3.    Educate Your Staff
Of course, the first two steps are no good if your staff isn’t aware of this process. Be sure to notify all new staff members to contact DataFile first in the above situations, and remind them that they don’t have to take these kinds of calls. Also, emphasize that if they receive a voicemail message from companies like EMSI, they don’t have to return the phone call.

Have another medical records request question for the experts at DataFile? Ask us today and you may see the answer featured on our blog.

When to Release Medical Information from Outside Providers

At DataFile, we are often asked to moderate discussions about Release of Information.  While there are certainly many gray areas of conversation to be enjoyed on this topic, one of the frequent questions we receive is the following:

“Can we release medical records from ‘outside’ providers in response to a request for medical records?”

The above question usually is more complex than simply answering “can we”, and leads to many scenarios for which we must determine that the extended question really is:  Should we?  Do we have to?  Can we choose not to?  Are we ALLOWED?  Are we OBLIGATED?

I’ll start with the least helpful, most irritating answer to the question and expand from there: IT DEPENDS!

The answer DEPENDS on how you define your Designated Medical Record Set (DRS).  Better yet, the answer DEPENDS on how your documented HIPAA policies define your DRS (Designated Record Set).

45 CFR 164.501 states a Designated Record Set is:
“a group of records maintained by or for a covered entity that is:
i)    the medical records and billing records about individuals maintained by or for a covered health care provider;
ii)    the enrollment, payment, claims adjudication, and case or medical management record systems maintained by or for a health plan; or
iii)    used, in whole or in part, by or for the covered entity to make decisions about individuals.”

If you have a special “Outside Correspondence” section in your medical record chart, and your HIPAA policy states that your organization does not use this information for any of the above (3) items, then you are NOT OBLIGATED to release this information.  However, should you have a properly authorized request that would include requesting this information, for instance a specific date range, then you are ALLOWED to release this information.  Furthermore, because you’ve chosen to retain the information, should you be served a properly executed court order subpoena, you would be OBLIGATED to release this information.

However, additional concerns come into play when/if the “Outside Correspondence” section is accessed and any of the information in that section is “used in whole or in part by or for the covered entity to make decision about individuals.” (iii) from the above 45 CFR 164.501. That information now needs to become part of the DRS and be moved outside this section and into a section of patient chart that is part of the DRS.  We’ve seen situations where this is not understood or policed properly, especially in an EMR setting.

Often a patient will hand deliver information to you from another provider.  It is advised that you determine exactly which of this information you will keep and add to your DRS and which information you will not.  For the information you are not incorporating into your DRS, it is suggested that you give the information back to the patient and not retain it at all.  It is not recommended that you accept the information and discard (meaning you do not add it to your DRS) without alerting the patient, because it could be assumed by the patient that you kept the information and incorporated the information for their future care.

Correspondence that you receive in response to your referrals or orders should be part of your designated medical record set and therefore you would be OBLIGATED to release with a properly executed request for medical records.  We have often heard practices misinterpret their obligation to release records from other providers.  In most situations the ethical and legal obligation of reconciling referrals and orders would naturally place this information in your DRS, therefore, you are OBLIGATED to release this information.

Finally, if you have information in a patient chart and you cannot locate current properly executed HIPAA compliant documentation that clearly states this information is NOT a part of your DRS, OR you cannot determine with absolute certainty that this information was NOT used in one of the (3) manners defined by 45 CFR 164.501, then you must consider it part of your DRS, which in turn ALLOWS you to release the information and furthermore OBLIGATES you to release the information.

Have a specific release of information question? Contact the experts at DataFile, and you may see the answer featured on our blog! Don’t forget to check out our other release of information resources and electronic release of information services on our website.

Pour Some Bubbly…Let’s Ring in 2011!

Happy New Year from DataFile! As we pour the champagne and welcome the new year, we wonder what 2011 will hold. Although we have no crystal ball to consult, here are our top three predictions for the wonderful world of electronic medical records scanning and electronic release of information services in 2011.

1. Increased EMR Conversion—Over the last few years hospitals and healthcare practices have been racing to implement electronic medical record systems. The benefits of deploying an EHR/EMR system are many – potentially reduced costs, improved patient care, increased efficiency, incentive payments – but implementation can be no easy feat. Undertaking the project of going paperless through EMR conversion can be overwhelming if you are not armed with the right knowledge and tools to do the scanning portion of the job right. DataFile is here to help ease the scanning process and make sure you get the end results you need.

2. Preparation for Meaningful Use—2011 marks the start of Stage 1 of Meaningful Use. This means that healthcare providers will ultimately have to demonstrate to the government that their organizations have deployed health IT and are actively and meaningfully using these systems to improve the health status of their patients. Being that this is the ultimate goal, healthcare providers should keep a clear focus during the next year on how all proposed and ongoing projects are going to contribute to the organization’s end-goal of meaningful use.

3. More Attention on Compliance Management—By converting to EMR, practices can quickly and seamlessly stay on top of requests for medical records directly from within their EHR/EMR platform. Practice administrators also need to stay up to date on HIPAA compliance issues, possible breaches, and their notification obligations in the event of breach. Practice Administrators will want to be sure that the dissemination of patient information is done in the right – securely, cost effectively and quickly to satisfy the demands for patient record requests from a variety of sources.

2011 marks an official change in the world of electronic medical records. Meaningful use will have a major impact on how medical practices prioritize and approach their medical initiatives. As this happens, DataFile is going to be with you every step of the way. In fact, see up our upcoming events for educational webinars and luncheons at your convenience.

Cheers to 2011!

The Practice Administrator’s Letter to Santa Claus

Weeks ago, our children wrote carefully crafted letters to Santa, professing why they deserved to be on Santa’s “Nice List” and get all the things they have on their wish list under the tree. As the letters were popped in the mail, it made us start wondering – if a Practice Administrator wrote a letter to Santa, what would it say? Although we have not seen any real letters ourselves, we think it might go something like this:

Dear Santa,

I have been very good all year. I ate all my vegetables, paid all the bills for the practice on time, and managed to not get any HIPAA violations…phew!

This year for Christmas I am asking for a gift that’s not just for me, but for my whole practice, really. You see, our entire team has been looking for ways to be better healthcare professionals so we can offer higher quality care to our patients. I have heard that having electronic patient information at our fingertips can help us be more aware of what’s going on with a patient and enable us to serve patients efficiently and effectively. Access to more complete patient records makes everyone’s lives easier, Santa! That’s why this Christmas I am asking for you to work your magic and get all our bulky paper files converted to electronic files in an EMR/EHR platform.

Also, if your elves are too busy making toys this year to scan all our files into the new EMR, I totally understand. I’ll take medical record scanning services from DataFile Technologies instead. They may be no toy makers, but they sure are the experts when it comes to scanning projects! If I got that, I’m pretty sure it would be the BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER!!

Merry Christmas Santa!

P.S. I’ll be sure to leave you cookies and milk at our front desk when you come!

The entire team at DataFile would like to wish you a safe and happy holiday season…and we hope you get everything you asked Santa for this Christmas!

And while you are staying warm in front of the fire, here are a few Santa pics for giggles:

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