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Five Phases of the Release of Information Process
Whosoever says that record-keeping and maintaining are easy tasks, however, in reality, it is quite the opposite. The Release of Information (ROI) process comprises over 40 detailed steps. Well, many apps and portals store and safeguard information. But when it comes to medical records, it is a starkly different ballgame. Medical information is sensitive, confidential and detailed.
In getting back to the ROI process, the good news is that these steps can get divided into five phases. As per the Association of Health Information Outsourcing Services, the release of information workflow process involves:
- Recording, tracking and verifying requests
- Retrieving sensitive and protected health information (PHI)
- Safeguarding the sensitive information
- Releasing the protected health information
- Request completion and invoice preparation
So, let’s get to it, shall we?
Phase 1: Recording, Tracking and Verifying Requests
This first process begins with the requestor filling out a medical release of information form. Alternatively, one can fill out a mental health release of information form. The requestor can be a family member or the patient themselves. However, it can also include any interested parties, such as a lawyer, an insurance company or a research institute. So, if you are not the requestor, you have to authorize the interested party.
The ROI form gives the health organization, such as a hospital, the authority to release a specific portion of your medical record. When the healthcare corporation receives the request, the department immediately records it. They also check the validity of the said authorization.
Phase 2: Retrieving the PHI
Here, an ROI professional begins by performing a search for the medical record number. Once located, they determine whether the file is in a hard copy, microfilm, or electronic format. The professionals also check where it gets stored. Today, information can get stored offsite, online or in digital format. In several cases, information might get retrieved from a combination of all three forms from all types of locations. When the medical records get procured, the protected health information – PHI – gets extracted and then uploaded to the release of information software.
If the medical record cannot get located, the professionals note it in the tracking software. Subsequently, the requester receives a notification regarding the same.
Phase 3: Safeguarding the sensitive information
In this phase, the ROI professional carefully examines all the images or pages. They need to ensure it does not contain any state or federally-protected health information that the healthcare corporation is not authorized to release. If such information gets released, the professionals are most likely to reject the request and update the status in the tracking software.
In case it isn’t updated, the personnel verifies that all pages and images are part of the file and not someone else’s. They also validate the dates of service are precise. Once done, they scan a backup set of the request and authorization into tracking software. Additionally, they can hard copy items and images into the software to form the medical records set. Subsequently, the hard copy chart gets reassembled and returned to storage.
Phase 4: Releasing the PHI
One might like to think that protected health information gets released easily. However, some protocols need to get fulfilled. Before releasing said information, the ROI professional verifies the request against the recorded data. To do this, the ROI professional cross-verifies the social security number and date of birth. The professionals also refer to the diagnosis to check that the information released is for the appropriate treatment.
Next, the Release of Information department performs a quality review to ensure the appropriate PHI gets included. This means another ROI professional confirms that the records belong to the correct category and fall within the accurate date range. The professionals also check whether the records get oriented correctly.
Phase 5: Requesting completion and preparing an invoice
This is the final phase of the process. In this, the ROI professional checks the information for the final time. They then apply state statute pricing to determine the fee. Once done, the invoice gets prepared. Subsequently, the records and invoice get placed along with an affidavit or certification in an envelope and then mailed to the requestor.
Alternatively, the documents can get sent through an encrypted digital platform such as email or online software.
Using an electronic health information exchange
As seen above, the release of information process is quite complex. Even more so, ROI departments must comply with HIPAA regulations at each step. Hence, it is helpful to rely on an electronic health exchange provider. This streamlines the process and makes it efficient and quick for patients and healthcare corporations.
Nonetheless, safeguarding data using state-of-the-art security measures is the need of the hour. Although advanced technology and features are easily accessible, healthcare providers should not take the protocols for granted.
Lastly, note that this is a broad and easy-to-understand overview of the ROI process. In reality, things are cumbersome. The ROI professional has to undergo several approvals, verification and validation of conditions before determining the steps to take.