VA continues with initiatives to improve records management

June 5th, 2013 | Posted by Kevin Corley in Document Management | Information Management

Healthcare organizations, governments and other firms have been looking to improve records management as a result of lost, damaged or stolen documents, which can threaten the efficiency and success of operations. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is just one of the agencies that has adopted a paperless goal in order to minimize the issues and risks that traditional document storage can cause.

The Buffalo News reported that after workers complained about ineffective record-keeping, VA officials discovered that thousands of patient records at the VA hospitals in Buffalo and Batavia have likely been lost or damaged. Upon closer investigation, medical records technicians in Western New York found that cardiac records, dental records and other medical files had been thrown carelessly into boxes rather than kept in any logical order. This forced doctors to search through all of the boxes in order to find the right file. Further, many Social Security numbers were not attributed to the correct veterans and five boxes of documents, which had already been exposed to mold, were not handled properly to ensure their preservation. As a result of these conditions, the Office of Special Counsel explained that veterans' medical records were often deemed unavailable.

Ann O'Hanlon, a spokesman for the Office of Special Counsel, noted that although it's impossible to determine the exact number of patient records that have been misplaced, it's likely that thousands were. Evangeline Conley, a spokesman for the VA in Buffalo, explained that the hospital system had used electronic medical records beginning in 1997, and that these records may not have been part of the problem.

"Clearly by the record and their response there were extensive paper records," she said. "We don't know how many there are, but there are both paper and electronic records."

Resolving problems by going digital
Eric Shinseki, the VA secretary, announced that the investigation team made seven recommendations for steps that need to be taken, such as developing a strategic plan for better patient records management, and processing all of the boxed records stored in Buffalo and Batavia to determine if they should be electronically scanned.

Meanwhile, Clarksville Online revealed that the VA recently partnered with The American Legion to reduce its compensation claims backlog by 2015 and work toward its goal of processing requests within 125 days and at 98 percent accuracy. As of May 17th of this year, a paperless claims processing system has been deployed at 46 out of 56 regional office locations, and approximately 18 percent of the VA's current claim inventory is in a digital format.

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