Protecting your client’s budget is an exercise in responsibility. It doesn’t begin when deadlines are looming over the horizon, but rather at the very beginning when your case is starting.
Rush fees – a common expense known for inflating record retrieval and nurse review budgets – can be avoided with proper planning at key moments in the litigation.
One misconception of rush fees is that they are destined to happen in cases due to the fluid nature of deadlines and the introduction of new information. The reality is rush fees often occur when an busy legal team members underestimate or overlook information early on that would signal portions of the litigation timeline may take longer than expected.
The key is to get organized now. We’ve provided three tips on how doing so will help your firm dodge the dreaded rush fee:
Organize and prioritize record requests based on anticipated turnaround times
There are state and federal laws that govern how fast record custodians must respond to medical record requests. In some cases, the custodian will process the request as soon as it is received. However, some providers will wait to the absolute last required day to respond to requests, and potentially longer to produce the records.
Once you determine which providers to contact, prioritize those that have an extended turnaround time to ensure on-time record collection. It is common for legal teams to prioritize record retrieval efforts around the type of record needed instead of where the record is located. Therefore, when turnaround time is not accounted for, it can put your deadlines in a pinch and put you at risk of facing rush fees or issuing costly subpoenas.
A key benefit to using a record retrieval vendor is leaning on their insights and understanding of which providers historically take longer than others. For example, the IRS, Social Security Administration, and large hospitals will generally have a slower turnaround time, so making sure record requests are sent to those places promptly can save you from a timetable crunch later.
Create a master list that outlines claimant, provider contacts, and record retrieval statuses
Keeping tabs on every aspect of the record retrieval process will help ensure the information you need for the case is not overlooked and is there when you need it.
We recommend the use of a master list that includes all claimants, custodian contacts, progress, and deadlines. Equally as important is supporting a process to regularly audit your master list to keep track of custodian response deadlines and to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks.
Take, for example, a case that has 200 claimants, and each claimant has five providers that will be contacted. An organized master list can be critical in helping to alleviate the pressure of meeting critical deadlines. Considering the amount of time needed to oversee record retrieval, it’s no wonder legal teams pursue partnerships with record retrieval specialists instead of using internal staff whose time could be better spent on higher-priority work.
Create a record retrieval timeline that accounts for nurse review turnaround times
Once you’ve determined which providers to contact and created a master list to manage retrieval efforts, it’s now time to factor in the review and analysis of the records by an experienced legal nurse consultant. Whether the review is performed by an in-house nurse or an outside legal nurse consultant, always make sure you verify how long it takes to review the records and produce the review analysis.
In most complex cases, the turnaround time for a nurse team to complete their review and analysis will take between three and four weeks. Rush fees are generally applied to turnaround time requests of two weeks or less.. By establishing a timetable that paints a realistic picture of nurse turnaround times, you communicate to your legal team when they can expect a completed review following the arrival of the medical records.
Ultimately, rush fees can be costly and – in many cases – avoidable with proper planning. At MRC, our record retrieval specialists and legal nurse consultants work closely with each of our clients and tailor a customized approach to help avoid deadline scares and rush fees. To learn more about how we can help you get organized with your next case, contact an MRC accounts representative today.