Release of information clerk is a common job title for someone who works in the medical records office of a hospital or who manages health records in other doctor's offices or healthcare settings. A high school diploma is a common minimum requirement, though some employers prefer employees with prior experience in a medical records office. Attention to detail, communication skills, computer literacy and good judgment in responding to records requests are helpful skills.
One of the most important responsibilities for a release of information clerk is ensuring that all release requests are HIPAA compliant. HIPAA is a prominent federal privacy law that regulates confidentiality in health care. In essence, all requests by third parties for someone's medical information typically require written authorization from the patient. When people go to a new medical provider, they often have to sign a HIPAA release. Ensuring that a request is authorized is a key legal and ethical protection.
To ensure legal and ethical compliance, the clerk must keep an accurate and detailed record of all requests. Computer programs are used to log requests, including the date, name of the requester and whether the records have been sent. Scans of all written authorizations are also made so the office can have an electronic record of the release requests. Once requests are entered electronically, physical requests are filed.
Some requests for medical records are from patients themselves or from internal employees or departments. Some patients ask for medical records themselves to take to another appointment. X-rays might be sought for a specialist appointment, for instance. In a hospital or clinic, urgent care or emergency doctors may need patient records to properly treat ER patients. This need might involve a request to the health network's medical records office for information about previous treatment. When patients or internal offices request records, they normally pick them up from the records office or provider.
Clerks also field requests from external, third parties. Other healthcare providers may want access to a patient's records for continued care, specialist care or follow-up treatment. Insurance companies also typically seek records for verification of claims or to ensure medical necessity prior to treatment. In some cases, lawyers and courts make official requests through subpoenas to gain access to records in a lawsuit or criminal trial. Meeting deadlines in responding to such requests is also important. When time is of the essence, the clerk often faxes or send records electronically to third parties.