Health Information Management

Don't succumb to off-site, out-of-mind record storage

HIM-HIPAA Insider, March 9, 2010

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Space is at a premium for many hospitals. Most campuses simply don’t have enough space to store all of the organization’s business and medical records. Storing only what is necessary is critical to keeping costs low. “If any of us sat down and tried to figure out how many pounds of paper we ever stored, we would be appalled,” says Monica Pappas, RHIA, president of MPA Consulting, Inc., in Long Beach, CA. “And HIM is always the largest user, so you have to own it and do what you can.”

Get in the habit of carefully labeling everything going into storage. Many vendors don’t require you to put the date of destruction on boxes, says Pappas. So records could sit on shelves at the storage facility for much longer than necessary—and the vendor will be happy to bill you for that space. 

In addition, understand the costs of linear versus vertical storage, and choose the most cost-effective methods. For example, many hospitals may send file cabinets full of microfilm or pathology slides to off-site storage, and facilities charge different fees for this, says Rose T. Dunn, RHIA, CPA, FACHE, FHFMA, chief operating officer of First Class Solutions, Inc., in St. Louis. “Vertical storage can be more expensive because it takes up a footprint on the floor and the vendor can’t store anything above it,” she says. 
Be sure to keep track of how many boxes of records (and the dimensions of those boxes) you store off-site and check your invoices monthly to verify that the numbers add up. For example, if you haven’t sent new records to the vendor in the prior month, the invoiced charge for inches of storage shouldn’t change, Dunn says.

Editor’s note: For more tips, view the March 2010 issue of Medical Records Briefing.

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