BP Perspective Insights from a Business Partner

7 Factors Legal Professionals Should Consider When Choosing Records Retrieval Support

Records retrieval is a complex process in which law firms request, retrieve, organize and deliver personal records that are required for litigation.

Joe Swingle

The largest portion of records requests is for medical, radiology and billing records that insurance carriers and their law firms need to support their cases. Other records, such as claim files, pharmacy records, police reports, employment information and incident reports, come into play as well, depending on the nature of the case. It’s an incredibly complicated process, and most law firms do not attempt to go at it alone. Instead, they partner with an outside records expert.

Because litigation today moves fast, legal professionals are constantly seeking ways to improve every stage of the process to generate efficiency and improve cost-effectiveness without sacrificing quality. In the early stages, the records retrieval process is often overlooked as an area for increasing efficiency because legal professionals can be in the habit of “go with what you know” instead of seeking out experts who may be able to offer improvements. But that can be a mistake when it comes to efficiency for this important step.

If your legal organization is ready to look for outside expert help, you should ensure your vendor of choice is following these best practices:

  1. Your expert should process your request in a timely manner once your order has been received. Timing can make or break your case — and the clock starts ticking as soon as records are requested. Nothing outside of 48 hours should be acceptable. The issuing of the request with accurate deposition of written questions (DWQs) is crucial to the admissibility of the records once they are received.

  2. Your expert should conduct research prior to issuing the requests. This helps eliminate requests that will not produce records and circumvents most cancellation fees. How is this accomplished? Maintaining an extensive and accurate database of facilities and providers can save time and money. Many medical professionals use third-party providers, such as Healthmark or ChartSwap, to manage their patient records. Having this information upfront allows records companies to issue the request to the correct custodian the first time.

  3. Your expert should consistently follow up with custodians and communicate with the client. It sometimes can take four or five follow-up attempts with the custodian before receiving the records. Your expert should have the experience and persistence to navigate the bureaucracy to speak to a live person and not rely on multiple messages and faxes that routinely do not get a response. Importantly, a thorough understanding of the applicable custodial fee guidelines is key to managing costs for clients. Success is measured not by how many messages or faxes are sent but by how many custodians have confirmed to send the records.

  4. Your expert should be able to give you the records in your client’s preferred format and have checked them for accuracy against stringent quality standards. Whether it’s paper, searchable PDFs via an online repository or CDs — quality control once the record is received for production is vital. When your expert validates the associated legal documents for completeness and accuracy and ensures the legibility of the documents received, you and your client save time and money. One area that has become an issue with billing records is questions regarding detailed billing and payment information. It’s imperative that the record retrieval provider checks the responses for accuracy against the records.

  5. Billing should be simple and streamlined without an excessive number of add-on line items. Does the cost of the record fall within the cost constraints of your case? Are you notified about large custodial fees and voluminous records in advance of billing? These simple courtesies allow you to make informed decisions about your case.

  6. The turnaround time from when you first request records until you have them in hand in your preferred format should be 23 days or less. The “difficult” records to acquire can often be the key to obtaining the proper settlement in a matter. Dedicating personnel to problem records that have incomplete DWQs, incorrect billing information or are missing the required certifications can avoid delays in getting the records to the client.

  7. Your outside expert should place a strong emphasis on cross-training employees. This will enable you to shift personnel to different duties as needed to avoid backlogs and delays. Having an experienced team working on your requests is vital to the speed in receiving and processing your requests.

Most importantly, thorough, accurate and timely communication with your records retrieval expert is vital. Your expert should be proactively communicating with you on a consistent basis. Because litigation moves fast, quick turnaround times are a necessity. A company that has adapted its processes and procedures to ensure efficiency, accuracy and cost-effectiveness without sacrificing quality is an important part of a law firm’s process and will help you save time and money on every case.