Salmonella Outbreak – Medical Records Needed

Whoa, that pesky salmonella.  Striking again.  This time the harmful strain can be attributed to conditions at a Foster Farms poultry plant in California.

Salmonella is a thorn in the chicken industry’s side: the salmonella bacteria is actually quite common in the poultry industry and can be detected in most chickens, often from birth.  Since the salmonella bacteria can be killed through cooking, government officials allow some levels of the contaminant to be present in poultry factories.  The largest concern over the recent outbreak, however, is the particular strain of salmonella: Salmonella Heidelberg.  Salmonella Heidelberg has become resistant to some common antibiotics and over 40% of the recent illnesses have resulted in hospitalizations, twice the normal rate associated with most salmonella outbreaks.

Currently, 362 people have reportedly been infected across 21 states.  No deaths have been reported.  Recalls have been issued at several grocery store chains, including the Costco in San Francisco, CA.  Nevertheless, the salmonella tainted chicken may still be in circulation in grocery stores around the country as the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, F.S.I.S., did not actually order Foster Farms or any grocery store to recall the tainted chicken.  The current solution to the outbreak: handle your chicken carefully, and cook it well.

This is not the first salmonella outbreak, nor will it be the last.  MEDRECS is constantly monitoring the CDC and other sources for information on outbreaks and other consumer issues.  We have been intimately involved in the rapid gathering and processing of medical records for patients affected by past salmonella outbreaks related to peanut butter and other tainted food products.  The speedy retrieval and vetting of medical records is critical both to law firms and the patients they represent in order to ensure a complete understanding of the outbreak and subsequent illnesses, and to ensure impartial and transparent access to the primary evidence: the medical records.

If your law firm finds itself representing a party in a food-bourne illness matter, you can count on MEDRECS as your medical records partner. Our experience and success on large volume high-profile cases is unmatched and our turnaround time for production of records is industry best.

For any questions you have for MEDRECS, please contact us at contact@medrecs.com

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/08/salmonella-chicken-outbreak/2941783/

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/18/business/la-fi-foster-farms-20131019

2014 Changes to RCW 70.02.010

Interesting news flash: it looks like the transition to electronic medical records is beginning to pay off, monetarily.

Effective 07/01/2014, “reasonable fees” will be lowered to $0.65 pp for the first 30 pages and to $0.50 pp for any pages thereafter.  (note – this new rate is down from $1.04 pp for the first 30 pages, and $0.79 pp for all pages thereafter.)  Additionally, the maximum clerical fee a provider may charge will be reduced from $23.00 to $15.00.

“These amounts shall be adjusted biennially in accordance with changes in the consumer price index, all consumers, for Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan statistical area as determined by the secretary of health.”

To see the new bill, click here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2013-14/Pdf/Bills/Session%20Laws/House/1679-S.SL.pdf

Subpoena v. Subpoena Duces Tecum

The other day a couple paralegals and I sat together at happy hour discussing subpoenas.  Several questions arose as we tossed around the general term subpoena and the more regal sounding Latin trinomial, subpoena duces tecum.  At first, we simply argued over how to pronounce the latter.  Then we turned to a deliberation over the difference between the two terms, and if indeed there was any significant difference?  Are the terms interchangeable?  If the terms refer to distinct legal commands, then when should each be invoked, and for what purpose?  In the end, like good legal professionals, we agreed to disagree on what constitutes a subpoena duces tecum versus a standard “subpoena.

In light of this dispute, I decided to dig deeper and I uncovered some answers:

To begin, we must define “subpoena:  a subpoena is a writ issued by a government agency, often a court, or by an attorney of record in the action who is thereby endowed with legal authority to act as an officer of the court.

There are two types of subpoenas – subpoena ad testificandum and subpoena duces tecum - which serve three common purposes:  (1) to compel testimony before the court, (2) to compel presence at a deposition, or (3) to compel the production of tangible evidence.  The subpoena ad testificandum is used for number (1) and (2) above, while the subpoena duces tecum is used for number (3).  

Since subpoena ad testificandum is such a mouthful, it is often simply referred to as a “subpoena”; so, the general term “subpoena” refers to a writ summoning an individual to the court or to a deposition, whereas, the specific term “subpoena duces tecum” refers to a writ summoning the production of evidence pertinent to the case.

The term subpoena duces tecum is literally Latin for “bring with you under penalty of punishment”.  Not to confound matters further, but, in many states a subpoena duces tecum is referred to as a “subpoena for the production of evidence”.  (Note – several states are attempting to reduce the usage of non-English words in court terminology.  Furthermore, the legal lexicon is not employed uniformly from state to state.  What may be referred to as a “subpoena duces tecum” in one state may be referred to as a regular ol’ “subpoena” in another.)

The main difference between a “subpoena” (subpoena ad testificandum) and a subpoena duces tecum is that the subpoena duces tecum does not require the subject to give oral testimony.  The subpoena duces tecum only commands the subject to produce the items named in the document.  In the past, it was far more common for the subject to bring the items with her/him to the court; however, nowadays it is normal for the subject to mail or deliver the items to the attorney’s office or to the office of a record retrieval company such as MEDRECS.

It should now be clear that in our world of personal injury and other medical related litigation, we almost always deal with subpoena duces tecum.  Medical related litigation relies heavily upon the acquisition of medical records and other information from healthcare entities such as hospitals and doctors’ offices.  Such information provides the evidence which constitutes the crux of many cases.  Therefore, it is very common for a subpoena duces tecum to be used to compel the production of vital material such as medical records, billing records, x-rays, pharmacy records, billing codes, pathology material, employment records, labor and industries records, and the list goes on.

During the process of discovery, requests for records are typically sent to healthcare providers which seek the production of medical records and other key documents.  It is not uncommon, however, for insufficient or incomplete information to be produced by the healthcare facility, or, in some cases, no information is produced at all.  For this reason, the subpoena duces tecum is an effective way to compel healthcare providers to produce complete and accurate evidence, which is specifically outlined in the subpoena.  Failure to produce the information listed in a subpoena may open the healthcare provider to penalty.

If you have any questions about the subpoena service process, whether a subpoena is appropriate or necessary, or if you seek assistance in the preparation and service of a subpoena, please feel free to contact MEDRECS.

Sources:

http://www.floridabar.org/TFB/TFBResources.nsf/Attachments/10C69DF6FF15185085256B29004BF823/$FILE/Civil.pdf?OpenElement

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subpoena_duces_tecum

http://www.rotlaw.com/legal-library/what-is-a-subpoena-duces-tecum/

MEDRECS: Mass Tort Litigation Update

In light of the recent government shutdown and partial lapse in funding for the CDC and FDA, we thought it beneficial to post a reminder about ongoing health alerts as well as  mass litigation proceedings we track.  As a premier medical record retrieval provider, MEDRECS routinely monitors food safety announcements and other warnings published by the CDC.  We often find ourselves gathering records for parties both pre-litigation and during litigation.  

One current outbreak being monitored is cyclosporiasis, a parasite that causes intestinal infections.  Public health officials allege that this parasite can be traced back to a salad mix produced by Taylor Farms de Mexico and resold in restaurants throughout the southern United States, Iowa and Nebraska.  There have been over 600 cases reported in 25 states, resulting in 45 hospitalizations.  Fortunately, no deaths have been reported.  The widespread nature of the outbreak suggests that not all cases of the parasite are related to each other or can be traced to a common source.  An investigation is ongoing.  Despite this outbreak, the CDC encourages everyone to continue eating vegetables and leafy greens as part of a healthy and balanced diet.  

At MEDRECS, we also monitor mass tort litigation proceedings.  SSRI litigation (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), connecting SSRIs to birth defects, has been ongoing for several years now.  In 2010, GlaxoSmithKline, maker of the SSRI Paxil, agreed to settle over 800 lawsuits for over $1 billion.  Now, SSRI litigation appears to be heating up again.  Over the summer a new lawsuit appeared in Pennsylvania alleging a connection between birth defects and the use of the SSRI Zoloft during pregnancy.  Hundreds of similar federal cases from around the country could join the multi-district litigation which is set in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  We will be tracking the development of these cases.

When your law firm, company, or governemnt agency finds itself involved in a mass tort proceeding, you can count on MEDRECS as your medical records partner. Our experience and success on large volume high-profile cases is unmatched and our turnaround time for production of records is industry best.  We have worked for the pharamceautical industry, government, healthcare industry, and for parties to numerous food-bourne illness lawsuits, gathering thousands of medical records under strict deadlines.   

Medical record retrieval is simultaneously one of the most important and most cumbersome and confounding aspects of mass litigation. Coordinating, tracking, and managing the complex job of mass record retrieval on these cases can be quite painstaking indeed.  For this reason, law firms, insurance companies, class-action administrators, and government agencies involved in litigation greatly benefit from the outsourcing of record retrieval.

For any questions about MEDRECS or this article, please email contact@medrecs.com 

Patient Billing Records – the thorn in your side…

Common reaction to chasing billing records

Are Missing Patient Billing Records Ruining Your Day?

Stress no more.  MEDRECS will take care of it for you:

MEDRECS Inc. has a handle on the dizzying vicissitudes of the patient billing record industry.  We call this an “industry” because the recent proliferation of outsourced billing companies has snowballed into BIG business, on a national scale.  There is now a nationwide labyrinth of billing services, hospitals, ER departments, and parent medical systems, with requirements so complicated it will make your head spin.  The most immediate and perplexing consequence of this is that clinics and hospitals are less and less likely to maintain their own patient billing records, and often times they do not have correct information regarding how to retrieve the billing records.  Below we provide some very valuable information to help illuminate some of these recent changes for you:

EPBS Intermedix is an emergency physician billing service in Oklahoma which maintains patient billing records for no less than 6 Washington State providers.  As of recently, EPBS now requires the “emergency/medical group” name on the patient authorization –  i.e. they will no longer accept just the Hospital name on the authorization.  Below are the Hospital names with the corresponding group names that must be on the authorization. 

Capital Medical Center – Thurston Emergency Group 

Valley General – Northsound Emergency Medicine 

Swedish Medical First Hill – Seattle Emergency Physicians 

Auburn Regional – Cascade Emergency Physicians 

Holy Family – Emergency Physicians Services

Similar requirements are now in place for our local facilities in Washington: 

Association of University Physicians now requires the authorization to list not only the Hospital but the exact medical group, clinic, or emergency physicians for which you desire billing records.  

Similarly, Swedish Cancer Institute requires us to request patient billing records from 3 separate contact fax/phone numbers depending on which services were provided.

It is critical to be aware of these requirements in advance so you can plan accordingly and prepare the necessary request information.   MEDRECS is here to help you and your law firm navigate the challenging world of medical and billing record retrieval.  Please leave a comment or let us know if you have any questions.  We are always happy to help!

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HIPAA tightens its grip…

In the ever-stricter world of protected health information (PHI) and HIPAA compliance, nothing can be left to chance.  Healthcare facilities are no longer interested in inferring anything from the authorizing documents.  All requests must be explicit and direct.   Interpretation is out of the question: if there is even the slightest ambiguity on the stipulation, authorization, or subpoena nowadays, the request will likely result in a rejection.  This level of scrutiny is vastly more stringent than it was even one or two years ago.  Here are a couple important tips to remember:

If you require billing records from a particular organization, you must (1) determine where the billing is done and (2) include the specific billing department’s name and location on the stipulation/authorization.  Many hospital billing departments are now off-site and/or outsourced.  This is true for hospitals such as University of Washington and Harborview Medical Center.  In the past, it was sufficient to state on the stipulation that you require medical records and billing records from University of Washington Medical Center, or Harborview Medical Center.  Now, if you require billings in addition to the medical records, you must list the billing departments separately from the medical records departments.  So for Harborview, you must indicate “Association of University Physicians” billings (and include the address), as well as “Hospital Collections” billings.  Furthermore, you must indicate whether you seek billings generated by a UWMC Doctor or department, or a Harborview Doctor.  Yes, this is much more detailed than it was a year ago.  But it is useful to be aware of these nuances in advance as requests will be processed more quickly and achieve a higher level of success if copious information is provided at the outset.  If you have any questions about this, please contact MEDRECS.  If you are unsure of the exact wording or address for a billing facility, please contact MEDRECS.  Note – citing incorrect address, name, or facility information on a stipulation may result in a rejection from the facility.  Therefore, it is advisable to cross-check all information with MEDRECS before proceeding.

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MEDRECS – Group Health Authorization Form

In the interest of thoroughness and stringent commitment to the confidentiality of patient health information, Group Health all but requires the use of their own particular authorization form in order to release protected health information (PHI).  If you attempt to request records from Group Health with something other than the Group Health Legal Release Form, your chances of gaining compliance to your request are rare indeed.  For this reason, it is highly recommended that you utilize the Group Health Legal Release Form for any medical records requests made to Group Health.  The Group Health form is updated periodically and MEDRECS keeps a keen eye out for any updates to the form to ensure that the forms we provide access to contain all the most recent verbiage.  The most recent Group Health form includes authorization language for sensitive information.  This form, and dozens of other facility-specific authorization forms, can be found in a reliable and up-to-date format on MEDRECS website.

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Medical Record Retrieval – Tips for a Successful Retrieval Effort

Welcome Back to the MEDRECS Blog!  Please consider this a forum for all things Record Retrieval.  Medical Record Retrieval is the core expertise of MEDRECS, Inc. and we want to share our knowledge and experience with you in hopes of improving the record retrieval experience for all parties involved: attorneys, patients, clients, adjusters, and healthcare professionals.  Medical Record Retrieval is difficult enough even with all of the resources, skills, knowledge and support of a company like MEDRECS, but it can prove to be extremely cumbersome and perplexing if you jump into it without equipping yourself with the tools and knowledge necessary for a successful retrieval campaign.

Now enter the birth of the MEDRECS blog: the intent of this blog is to fill a much needed space where information and discussion relating to medical record retrieval can flow.  This means that we would love to hear from all of you!  Please feel free to post comments relating to your strategies and successes in your record retrieval effort.

Let us initiate this new Blog with a few key things to remember when preparing for a record retrieval effort:

1)      Specific Authorization Forms

Not all facilities were created equal – i.e. some accept multiple forms of authorization, while others reject all forms of authorization except their own.  It is always a good idea to check your facility list with MEDRECS up front in order to determine whether any facilities will require their own specific authorizations.  This can save a significant amount of time in the long run!  To see a list of facility specific authorizations please visit http://medrecs.com/Resource/FormsDownload

2)      Reconcile the medical records with the billing records

This will determine if anything crucial is missing from the record set.  This falls under the “record collection best practices” category.  It is a reality in the industry that healthcare Providers do not always release all information in their possession, as is explicitly requested in the authorization.  There are many reasons for this, not least of which is accidental non-disclosure of all information.  The record retrieval service will sometimes notice that key information is missing from a record.  But it is best practice to review the records carefully to ensure that all requested information is contained within.

Hello world!

The MEDRECS Blog is live!

Welcome all to the MEDRECS, Inc. Medical Record Retrieval Blog.  This blog is created to be a one of a kind forum for all things record retrieval.  We invite you to visit this site to read, link, and share with colleagues, post your ideas, issues, projects, and conundrums regarding your record retrieval efforts.  We hope this blog will help decipher some of the complexities and confusion surrounding this topic.  Stay tuned!

Need Records…?  Look no further than www.medrecs.com.