Keeping An Eye On Redaction and Data Automation: Why It’s Important to Small Practices

David Rasmussen
David Rasmussen

Guest post by David Rasmussen, president, Extract Systems.

There’s little argument that overwhelming responsibility is placed on practice leaders to protect the security of patient records. Maintaining the accuracy, privacy and control of this data is one of the most crucial roles within the care setting. Given the high level of risk for exposure of this information and because of expanded enforcement of HIPAA, practices managing the release of information (ROI) must be more vigilant now than they have been in the past. Their processes for handling ROI need to meet not only the requirements of the law, but what’s in the best interest of the practices’ patients.

Along with a significant rise in HIPAA enforcement, practices must remain sensitive of how they handle the data that’s released to third parties. Redaction of personal information from records is one important way practice administrators can improve security, though it’s not the only way. Automating the removal of PHI by integrating redaction solutions with existing practice technology –  such as electronic health records – searching and removing any protected information becomes electronic, eliminating a manual, repetitive process.

Removing risks associated with the release of PHI is possible with automated solutions that can remove data fields like patient name, dates of service, medication lists and other general information in the health record. But, even though solutions exist to automate the redaction of protected PHI, most organizations process records manually even as they migrate to electronic systems in other areas.

This is a liability as there’s greater room for manual error. Automation reduces error and the need for continuous manual review of records, streamlining the overall process. This allows for the electronic processing of ROI forms as the technology can scan forms and documents, searching for specific fields and pieces of data, removing sensitive information from the health record.

Using redaction in existing workflows reduces manual redundancy, and increases security and peace of mind for those managing the process. Because there’s more federal oversight and enforcement with HIPAA – and more fear of audits and fines – those looking to stay ahead of an evolving HIPAA Privacy Rule may find value in using an electronic solution to redact personal health information.

Redaction is not the only solution that helps create efficiency and increases the security of practices. Back-end administrative solutions make a difference as well. For example, scanning and attaching paper records and labs results to a patient’s electronic record can result in inefficiency, frustration and even risks to patient safety. Manual data entry is labor intensive and error prone yet when key data is not manually keyed, providers must search outside the EHR for vital information that drives decision support.

Innovative practices are taking the next step in content transformation and capturing data trapped in paper and converting it into “intelligent,” and searchable information that can easily be moved into  electronic systems.

By automating the records’ capture process, documents, such as insurance forms and even faxes, are be easily processed. Data fields on paper forms regardless of design or layout, are sent to the appropriate patient record and mapped to the proper location in the EHR. Staff can quickly verify captured data in powerful and intuitive user interfaces.  With a complete database, it’s possible to search and locate specific documents as needed, and extract, file, redact or process them.

The automated approach allows a practice to receive hundreds of thousands of lab results and automatically process them into the EHR, eliminating the need for paper copies and the associated scanning. Doing so also reduces the need for manual data entry and the risk of data entry errors, and allows for automated redaction. Though staff still needs to review the transfer and collection of data to ensure 100 percent accuracy, the process is more efficient and secure for most practices.

Some of the additional cost savings and benefits include:

Many practice leaders already realize that paper is going to remain a part of care setting for a long time and data capture solutions drive strong ROI. They see the benefit of collecting the information contained on paper and getting it into an EHR or other healthcare information systems in a actionable format. This, obviously, is a much less difficult task when the process is automated. And automated data capture paves the way for automating redaction to protect against breech and security fractions.

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