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Document Management Navigating regulations


How Edward Hospital & Health Services is achieving secure document management. By Mark Wesley


T


he rapid advances in electronic medical records (EMR) and IT have produced effective solutions for capturing, storing and retrieving information. One challenge that often remains unsolved for hospitals is how to manage paper documents. Due to a variety of regulations, healthcare facilities must securely maintain legacy paper-based records for many years, while still manag- ing electronic information. However, most healthcare facili- ties still generate a great deal of new paper documents each year, adding further responsibility to maintain these physical documents for years to come.


Harold Richards at Edward Hospital & Health Services knows these challenges all too well. Located in Naperville, Ill., Edward Hospital & Health Services is a full-service, regional healthcare provider offering access to complex medi- cal specialties and innovative programming. As the direc- tor of material management, Richards is responsible for the secure storage, cataloging and


Mark Wesley is president of Recall North America. For more on Recall solutions: www.rsleads.com/203ht-206


destruction of all of the hospital’s highly regulated documents, which include patient fi les, fi nancial records, employee HR fi les and certifi cations, as well as purchase orders. The facility has 309 private patient rooms and 4,300 employees, including 1,350 nurses and a medical staff of 1,000 physicians, representing nearly 70 medical and surgi- cal specialties and subspecialties. A great deal of paper is generated each day.


“Many of our paper documents need to be held for seven years. It seems easy enough, but factor in the multitude of regulations and you’ll realize how challenging this becomes,” says Richards. HIPAA is a key concern, along with the hos- pital’s privacy policy. “We can’t just store these documents in the basement of the facility, where anyone may have open access to confi dential patient fi les,” he says. Real estate is an- other cost that fi gures into the equation. The hospital would need to reduce its beds and offi ces just to store paperwork. “It’s an ineffi cient use of our facility resources, not to men- tion the diffi culty in cataloging the fi les and protecting them from exposure or damage,” Richards explains. Beyond the security of the documents, paper fi les need to be rapidly accessible. Richards notes that “the Joint Commis- sion is entitled to visit the hospital at any time and request any document of their choosing. The Illinois Department of


18 March 2012


Health also has similar oversight into records management practices, and its inspectors can also demand any piece of documentation at any time. It would be an impossible task to securely manage seven years of paperwork and catalog it in such a fashion that we might call up any fi le on demand.” For Edward Hospital & Health Services and hundreds of other healthcare facilities, secure management of paper documents can only be handled effectively by experts in the fi eld. Recall Corporation handles all of Edward Hospital & Health Services’ physical records. Recall is a global leader in managing information in multiple formats throughout its lifecycle. The company spans fi ve continents in more than 20 countries and stores more than 100 million cartons of documents for industries such as healthcare, fi nancial ser- vices and many others. For Richards, the ability to get his hands on specifi c documents in a rapid time frame is crucial. “Through an online request, I can see my entire inventory of paper documents,” he says. “I can have a specifi c carton pulled from Recall’s secure Information Center and delivered to our doorstep in no time at all.” Storing and securing paper-based records is just half the


battle. At the end of a document’s lifecycle, it can’t just be thrown in a dumpster. Due to the sheer volume of re- cords that are retired each year, shredding by hospital staff members is out of the question. Richards also notes, “These documents must be destroyed in a secure manner, so as not to violate privacy policies we carefully enforce.” Per regula- tory requirements, Richards needs to ensure that old paper records are destroyed securely and that they’re not held longer than needed.


Richards encourages other hospitals to revisit their docu- ment storage strategies. “Non-compliance and lawsuits are costly,” he says. Regardless of where you choose to store your documents, follow these rules of thumb to reduce your exposure: • Make sure your storage area is protected against fi re, water damage and any other materials that may harm the documents themselves. • Have a way to fi nd each document as rapidly as an inspector requests it. • Secure your fi les from curious eyes.


• Know exactly how long each document needs to be held.


• Securely destroy all obsolete records. HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY HMT www.healthmgttech.com


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