Women's Health Connection wishes to thank the community for their support during the 11 years that we welcomed and cared for patients in the greater Spokane area.
Our practice formally closed on September 16, 2016. Women's Health Connection was a dba of "Northwest Health Summit". The other divisions, including Metabolic Health Connection, and Northwest Psychiatry and TMS Services, also closed on that date. We were able to continue to employ a medical records clerk until October 27th, 2016, and all requests received on or before that date were sent out per your request. There is no longer an office nor employees at NWHS and the company is insolvent.
For Records Requests Received after October 27, 2016
The corporate officers and their representatives at NWHS have reached out to a HIPAA compliant third party custodian to carefully store the medical records and make records available on request to patients for the next 8 to 10 years.
NWHS is experiencing delays in getting records to that custodian in that the practice's electronic medical records host (INHS) has not yet been able to turnover the records to NWHS in a format that is complete and easily readable by a human. INHS is co-operating with NWHS to try to extract the patient data from their servers, but it appears to be stored by INHS in a manner in which it was embedded with other practice's data (INHS hosts electronic records for many practices). Extracting it into a database specific to NWHS patients, that can then be turned into a meaningful and readable record is a process that NWHS has been told will take several weeks to months for INHS to complete. Specifically what INHS has told us is that they began the process of extracting the data on December 28, 2016, and that it will take approximately 4 weeks to complete. After that another company will need to help them convert that database into a single pdf of the complete medical record, readable by a human. That process, we understand, will take another 4 weeks approximately. INHS attempted to do this process on their own, when NWHS initially asked for their records back in September 2016. However the sample of a medical records archive they gave us at that time only contained about 20% of the patients record, in the estimation of the licensed providers who examined these records, and thus was not acceptable as an archive, in that it was so incomplete and difficult to read. It did not contain any of our signed chart notes, office notes, operative reports or imaging reports, just many tables of data points that were difficult to make sense of. So INHS tells us they will need outside help and expertise - they have communicated to us that they do not have the expertise within their company at this time to complete this project of returning complete readable medical records to NWHS that would include our complete office documents. NWHS was able to locate expert outside help for INHS to do this conversion once they have the data extracted, but we have not yet confirmed that it will be an acceptable archive. We are hopeful though, based on initial conversations and meetings.
After a meeting with INHS on December 27th, INHS told that they would begin the process of extracting our data on December 28th, 2016. They have since confirmed this. Four weeks from December 28th is January 24th, 2017, so we are looking forward to this, although INHS has told us that is only an approximate date.
Once INHS has extracted the database the next two steps are to: (1) have the data converted into a readable medical record, as the physicians and providers had originally documented it, in a pdf format, as above and (2) to turnover the readable pdfs to a HIPAA compliant medical records custodian for release to patients on request.
In the meantime, INHS has provided ongoing live medical records access to the practice. But there are no longer employees or an office setting nor equipment for the practice to reproduce these records from the live system, nor any employees to manage the live system, nor any expertise or equipment to do this. So the corporate officers are hard at work to try to find an interim solution while we wait for INHS to extract our patients records and return them to our closed practice so they can be turned over to a custodial company for safekeeping and for distribution to patients on request. In searching for a solution, we very recently discovered that some of the same custodial companies that can store and distribute records are also set up such that they can extract records for distribution from a live system as well.
So early this week, NWHS interviewed two potential custodial companies, and chose one to be the long term custodian of our records. Our plan next week is to make sure that this company that looks after the records for the long term is HIPAA secure, takes extraordinary good care of the records, and charges a reasonable rate to patients for their services. On Friday 1/12/17, we will be having a meeting to discuss the access of the custodial medical records company, from INHS, and make sure that it is done in a tamper proof way.
At that point, patients will be able to access records directly from that company, who will access and extract data from the live system that INHS is maintaining for NWHS until INHS can get the records given back to NWHS in a complete readable format.
The only drawback is that from the live system, the records can only be reproduced line item by line item as many dozens of individual pdf files for each document on each chart. This is a problem that our clinic struggled with for years when it was open. It required more than one full time employee to reproduce records on request because the process of extracting records from the live system is relatively inefficient. In some cases, these records need to be extracted as hundreds and hundreds of little pdf files for each patient record. This will continue to be the case until INHS provides the practice with a complete pdf archive of the record.
The need for an outside custodial company to have to extract records as multiple small pdfs (one for each line item on the chart) has potential to add considerable cost for patients, although the company we chose has indicated that they will not raise the price to patients. The other potential problem is that it is very difficult to make sense of because it is not all on a single orderly document, and needs to be sent out as many different secure encrypted emails. But the custodial company we've chosen has indicated that they can do combine this into one document. All of this will need to be tested before we roll it out, but we are hopeful.
We are still looking forward to a time when INHS can give the company back its records, in a readable single pdf format, that can be given to the custodian, instead of having them try to access a live system. That will make this process is much easier and less time consuming.
For the time being, medical records requests are being received at:
PO Box 28220
Spokane, WA, 99228
NWHS will make contact the patients or providers making the records requests next week, after a Business Associate Agreement and a contract is signed with the new custodial company and the systems are tested. We will provide each person or entity requesting records with a new release form, directly to this custodial company and their contact information.
This site will be updated as new information is available.