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News

Rule Expansion Advice On e-Health Records Management

Iron Mountain : 07 May, 2010  (Technical Article)
Iron Mountain is calling on the US healthcare authority to expand its rules for the management of electronic health records in the industry
Iron Mountain has recently called on the Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand its proposed rules for the "meaningful use" of electronic health records (EHR) so healthcare providers would be eligible to receive federal subsidies for digitizing paper records and scrubbing patient databases.

Iron Mountain made its recommendations to CMS in response to the agency's Meaningful Use Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in December.

In the regulation, CMS outlined 25 criteria that caregivers and hospitals must meet before they can receive reimbursement under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Missing though from CMS's initial proposal are key first steps like scanning physical records and cleaning out patient databases that providers must do to implement EHR successfully.

"In hospitals today, managing patient records consists of an inefficient patchwork of systems, processes and decisions that have been made over many years," said Ken Rubin, vice president and general manager of healthcare for Iron Mountain. "If a hospital has poor processes for storing and managing hardcopy medical records, simply digitizing them will only add to the mess, not help solve it. Health systems that first streamline their paper storage and workflows for handling records not only establish the right framework for EHR, they can also find as much as $1 million in savings to help fund their transition to electronic records."

Having helped more than 100 hospitals make the switch from paper to electronic records, Iron Mountain advises healthcare providers to begin the EHR-conversion process by consolidating and organizing hardcopy records spread across their health system. This initial clean-up activity should also include improving the quality of Master Patient Index (MPI) data by scrubbing these databases for duplicate records and destroying them. Taking these steps lowers storage costs for the organization and provides caregivers with faster, more accurate access to a patient's complete medical history and records.

Next, hospitals should comb through their records and destroy duplicates as well as those past their state-mandated retention period. A study from the American Health Information Management Association found that more than half of US hospitals keep medical records forever. Destroying these outdated files and redundant copies cuts storage costs and makes digitization more cost-effective.

To reduce costs further, Iron Mountain recommends hospitals only digitize records on a go-forward basis and do so according to the patient's medical history, rather than spending limited budgets to image all records.

Iron Mountain manages hardcopy and digital healthcare information for more than 2,000 hospitals across 43 states.
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