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The initial $22,000 bill for obtaining medical records in the client’s personal injury case wasn’t unusual in the industry. But the attorney needing those files paid only $51.50, through taking advantage of HIPAA and HITECH language, and an end-around to the explosion in time and medical-records costs that law firms have weathered over the past two decades.
While HIPAA and HITECH have drastically improved patient privacy, the fallout from the laws has heaped costs and workloads on attorneys who use medical records as the foundation of their cases. Medical practices, hyper-aware of the laws’ restrictions, simply refer attorneys’ requests to third-party copy centers, which add thousands of dollars in fees and force attorneys to navigate a time-intensive maze of procedures.
That problem is all because of who is at the center of those records requests, Chris Carpenter, head of ChartSquad, told CVN.
“All the fee restrictions HIPAA and HITECH put in place, they aren’t for attorneys,” Carpenter said of the federal caps on the amount patients can be forced to pay for their own records.
Instead of an attorney directly requesting a patient’s medical records, ChartSquad provides law firms the ability to help patients obtain medical records directly, then share them securely with their attorney, or anyone else they choose, leveraging technology and automation to require the absolute minimum burden on the patient.
That difference in who makes the request saw a $22,000 invoice turn into $51.50, including the $6.50 statute-based fee and ChartSquad’s $45 service charge for the request.
Carpenter said, to his knowledge, ChartSquad is the only patient-based records service that allows patients to share records with attorneys.
“This is a case-cost,” Carpenter explained. “An attorney requests the records? He’s paying $22,000. ChartSquad empowers the patient to requests the records through its secure online portal, it’s $6.50. This is about the patient. You and I, if we had an attorney and we were to be made whole, why should we have to pay $22,000 out of our settlement just to have gotten records?”
Carpenter, a HIPAA and HITECH records expert who worked for nearly 20 years in the medical industry before founding ChartSquad, said the idea of a patient-based request system was born from the problems his wife, a personal injury attorney, faced in navigating the market medical records regulations created.
“She would come home and complain that she couldn’t advance her cases because she could never get records. And if she could, they were terribly expensive, and she would receive the wrong records or something was missing,” Carpenter said. So here my wife is saying “I can’t get records,” and I’m saying “No, no. You can get records. You’re just doing it wrong.”
The portal Carpenter initially created for his wife’s firm has grown over the last 6 years to a nationwide digital service Carpenter said cuts attorneys’ on-desk time as well as their costs. Attorneys sign up online for free, submit their patient requests to ChartSquad through the online portal, and the company does the rest, updating the patients and their attorneys as records come in. The process for attorneys, Carpenter said, takes minutes, reducing on-desk time by 90 percent.
“Most of my new clients tell me that, within the first 90 days they have to shift workflow from chasing down records—which they spend a phenomenal amount of time doing— to writing demands because now they don’t have to chase down records,” Carpenter said. “So all of a sudden cases are closing faster.”
Another piece of that time savings lies in ChartSquad’s optional, free billing discovery service. With it, ChartSquad’s experts will review patient treatment records and automatically submit requests for attendant billing. The service eliminates the time-intensive search for separate anesthesiologist’s or surgeon’s billings, for example, and attorneys pay only for the additional requests. “We’ll do all of that homework and research for them without them lifting a finger,” Carpenter said. “It works really well for those instances where attorneys need it.”
The benefits are seen both by solo practitioners and some of the largest firms in the country who take advantage of ChartSquad’s flexibility. The company’s portal allows for easy scaling within a firm, allowing account holders to create user groups and segregate permissions within their practice. “It’s not limited to smaller shops,” Carpenter says. It’s not catered to large or small.”
While HIPAA and HITECH laws can prove an expensive bottleneck for firms without the right procedure, Carpenter says ChartSquad’s patient-centered approach to obtaining files, through its one-of-a-kind, attorney-friendly online portal, cuts through the cost and time attorneys have struggled with in the past.
“It’s one thing that lends itself to the next,” Carpenter says of the efficiencies in the patient-centered approach to record requests. “Now your whole system is moving and not being bogged down by medical records issues. You can bring in new clients. You can work more cases, you can be more successful. And at the end of the day, your clients are getting more out of their settlement.”