New leader for medical records vendor group has new ideas

The Association of Health Information Outsourcing Services has named Carlos Rodriguez as president.

Rodriguez succeeds Jim Bailey, president of health services at Sharecare. AHIOS was established in 1996 and represents HIM outsourcing service vendors,

Having served as executive vice president of business operations at Baylor College of Medicine, COO of a major academic delivery system and CFO of a pediatric physician practice plan in Houston, among other posts, Rodriguez believes he has the experience to make a difference and move the HIM industry toward helping patients get easier access to their medical records.

Too many HIM departments remain paper-based, still printing hundreds of pages of medical records and handing them to patients, who must pay for the priviledge of getting their records and lugging them back home, or being told the records are not ready and they will have to come back, he contends.

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The release of information process contains 45 steps, which include logging, tracking and verifying requests; retrieving protected health information, protecting sensitive information and invoicing the request, among other steps, and the association of HIM vendors has created a workflow chart that walks through the steps in order.

The need exists to better educate HIM departments and the vendors are ready to help, Rodriguez says. “My goal is to continue the AHIOS mission of increasing awareness of the value of partnering with member organizations to help ensure the healthcare industry has access to highly skilled, certified professionals surrounding the secure and compliant exchange of protected health information.”

The first step in the education process will focus on helping HIM departments use electronic health records and patient portals to give patients their electronic record with the patients able to access their own records via a portal, and then work with the departments to educate patients that they don’t have to leave with a bundle of papers.

“Having hold of your records electronically is critical,” says Rodriguez. “Vendors are using encrypted cloud technology to let patients download their records while at home. Some portals enable patients to download immunizations of their children and send them to daycare.”

But old habits are hard to shake. Rodriguez recalls a veteran chief information officer who always said the safest place to store data was in a data room, until a flood came. “We need to educate staff on the security and benefits of encrypted cloud computing.”

Also See: Hospitals make it challenging for patients to access medical records

Health information management vendors have teamed with the HHS Office for Civil Rights to educate HIM professionals that medical records belong to patients and OCR does not want to see barriers erected, Rodriguez notes. “The trend in government is empowering patients. HHS says that if a patient wants electronic records, they have to be given the records.” He notes that OCR recently issued industry guidance to alert providers that patients getting their records electronically are not subject to a per-page fee.

Large healthcare organizations know this, but smaller provider groups may not and smaller copy services may not have the means to go electronic.

Now, the Association of Health Information Outsourcing Services is working with the American Health Information Management Association to create educational forums and speak at conferences to spread the word of the right of patients to get electronic copies of their records—and not just an abstract but the whole set. However, some electronic health record vendors do not offer the complete medical record electronically because their client doctors may not want patients to see the comments that doctors make in the records.

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