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/

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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