Climate Change Project

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Misfiling Records

Another problem arises in the misfiling of a record. In facilities that have hundreds of thousands of records, the misfiling of a record may lead to its permanent loss. This is not a problem peculiar to medical records storage. Large libraries face the same problem when books are misspelled book is effectively lost. In order to combat this problem, such facilities hire persons whose only job is to do what is called "reading" the shelves. They systematically begin at one end of the collection and scan the titles and the access numbers of every book in the collection to flag misfiled books. In the case of books, this is a cost-effective procedure. A person need only recover one or two valuable books a day to offset the salary being paid. When it is realized that thousands of titles may be scanned in a day's time, the probability that several misfiled books will be located is very high.

It is harder to assess the cost effectiveness of this type of surveillance in a medical records department. First, medical records are not in open stacks, so they are usually filed by skilled personnel. The probability of misfiling a record will be considerably lower than it is in a research library where the patrons often refile books themselves. Second, unless a malpractice suit has already been filed in a given case, there is no clear economic benefit to finding a misplaced file. The risk manager must be very forceful in arguing that, even though there is no direct economic gain in finding a misplaced file, the potential loss from litigation is great enough to justify the periodic scanning of the files to recover misplaced medical records.

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