Healthcare News & Insights

How a PHI disclosure strategy can improve workflow and compliance

Hospitals have struggled to find a balance between protecting patients’ protected health information (PHI) and sharing the data to improve operations. But one group may have a solution. 

ThinkstockPhotos-467977083East Jefferson General Hospital (EJGH), a Louisiana-based hospital system, implemented an organization-wide PHI disclosure management strategy which streamlined workflow and PHI disclosure requests, and improved its overall compliance, according to a recent article for the Journal of AHIMA.

The article outlines how EJGH implemented the strategy among its numerous facilities, and has some valuable lessons for other facilities that want to do the same.

Addressing consistency issues

The system reached out to MTT Enterprises, a health IT vendor, to help launch the strategy. The overall goal was to create a centralized program that would not only improve workflow, but also ensure standardization among facilities, which reduces PHI exposure risks.

To start, EJGH identified several challenges the strategy would have to address in its health information management, billing and radiology departments. It later expanded its scope and examined issues among the various physician practices in the system.

Although EJGH’s teams all handled PHI correctly on their own, there was a lot of inconsistencies in how the different staffs handled PHI disclosure requests.

For example, each department had its own accounting of disclosure logs to track PHI sharing. Likewise, the different physician practices all had their own process for handling disclosure requests and were using various technology systems and disclosure management vendors.

Long-term results

EJGH began implementing its disclosure strategy in 2011 and has seen excellent results in terms of improved productivity, efficiency and compliance.

The system was able to centralize department logs into one database, and implemented a new online platform that could be used across the system. Departments could even assist one another in retrieving and uploading requested records remotely.

The centralized approach has also made it easier to respond to document requests from recovery audit contractors and Medicare administrative contractors, saving it a lot of time and frustration.

Although there was some pushback, particularly from the practices, over switching systems, EJGH was able to alleviate concerns by communicating the program goals and providing training about the new platform and procedures.

Lessons for others

It’s worthwhile for other hospitals to consider implementing similar PHI disclosure management strategies at their organizations, and examine what inconsistencies exist in storing and sharing PHI.

To help, the article offers some important takeaways EJGH learned from implementing its own strategy, such as:

  • Get buy-in from leaders early.
  • Involve IT to address technology and workflow issues before implementation.
  • Make ongoing communication and training a priority after implementation.
  • Offload and centralize PHI disclosure management tasks as often as possible.
  • Find ways to track and report disclosures across the organization.

 

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