Five Questions to Ask About Your Records Manager

Topics: Store and Protect Information

What does it take these days to be a records management star? The best ones can apply long-standing records management and compliance best practices to a whole new set of digital tools.

56 percent of the healthcare providers surveyed in the 2011 Iron Mountain Scanning Study consider improved patient service the primary reason for adopting an EMR system.

When your practice was newer and smaller, compliance hurdles were few, and records management probably wasn’t top-of-mind with your office team. In fact, it may have been a task as ordinary as billing, scheduling, and maintaining a stock of office supplies.

But that was then, and this is now. Information technologies like the electronic medical record (EMR) come with the promise of greater efficiencies for your organization. And now, as a result of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to Medicare, businesses like yours are eligible for significant incentives to digitize medical records.

Financial incentives—$19 billion allotted over five years—are being offered to healthcare organizations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. To get these funds, firms must meet the CMMS’s “meaningful use” requirements and convert to the EMR by 2015.

But whether you’re relying on paper or electronic records, or a mix of both, the goal remains the same: providing the best possible patient care. Supporting this, 56 percent of the healthcare providers surveyed in the 2011 Iron Mountain Scanning Study consider improved patient service the primary reason for adopting an EMR system. In the same study, 32 percent cited the regulatory environment as a motivator.

It’s Time for Some Tough(er) Questions

Achieving records efficiency calls for having the best possible records manager in place—whether that means getting more training for your current manager or finding a new records guru. Start by asking these questions about their skills and abilities:

  1. Does the current or prospective records manager show a command of key health records content and management principles and policies?
    Your manager should know how to apply proven best practices to a variety of emerging EMR formats and their related compliance standards (e.g., HIPAA 5010). For example, your company’s policies may need to be rewritten to accommodate information generated by websites, blogs and wikis.

  2. Does he or she have digital smarts?
    Your manager should understand not only which information technology best suits your records management needs but also the applications used for EMR archiving, storage, management and retrieval.

  3. Does the records manager have a good grasp of how various types of information are created, used, managed and destroyed?
    Having these skills helps a manager effectively create and maintain taxonomies, metadata models and other effective records management systems.

  4. Does he or she have a demonstrated command of healthcare compliance issues?
    The best records manager knows how to balance the need for privacy and confidentiality, mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, with an organization’s need to compile a patient’s complete health record. The manager should be able to identify successful policies and procedures implemented in the past that satisfy these often-conflicting goals.

  5. Does the candidate know how to navigate your office culture?
    The best policies and procedures are the ones that your organization’s employees can easily understand and embrace. An effective records manager knows how to solicit feedback to develop a plan and then work with peers and management to get it ratified.

Yes, it’s true: Building a stellar records management plan requires deep records management savvy. But that alone isn’t enough. It takes a combination of interpersonal and group dynamics expertise, along with these core skills, to win a well-laid plan the success it deserves.

Reading, Writing and…Anatomy and Physiology?

You’ll also want to ensure that the candidate has had proper records management education and training. Medical records and health information technicians typically earn an associate’s degree. Their coursework includes:

  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Health data requirements and standards
  • Clinical classification and coding systems
  • Healthcare reimbursement methods
  • Database security and management  
  • Quality improvement methods

A trusted information management partner can work with your records manager to keep track of healthcare industry security issues and evolving compliance regulations. Its team can also develop cost-effective and operationally efficient records management solutions that address both your near- and long-term needs.

Records Managers: It’s Nice Being Needed, Isn’t It?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment rates for medical records and health information technicians are expected to increase by 20 percent, much faster than for all occupations, through 2018. What’s fueling these projections? An increasing volume of medical tests, treatments and procedures. Also influencing this growth: the healthcare needs of a quickly expanding elderly population. 

Do you have more questions about assessing your current healthcare records management strategy? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s consulting services team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your information management challenges. 

Related Content:

Records Management and Your Path to the EMR: Are You Hip to Where It Hurts?

Design the Optimal Healthcare Records Retention Schedule

The Why and How of Creating an Entirely New Role in Your Organization to Master Records Management

What's Motivating Your EMR Conversion Plan?