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October 5, 2011 / Frank J. Albi

Execution Is Everything

A recent survey showed an interesting split between attitude and action when it comes to data retention and disposition.

Apparently, most organizations don’t follow their own advice. A whopping 87% believe a formal records retention policy would allow them to delete unnecessary information. Yet fewer than half actually have a formal information retention plan in place.

I see this all the time: Having a disposal schedule is not enough. You must adhere to the policy you establish as a standard business practice. Because in the event of a lawsuit or audit, NOT following your own policy could result in a seriously negative outcome.

Simply having some sort of disposal policy will not insure a successful outcome from an audit or lawsuit. Following your policy is much more likely to produce a favorable result.

Think about the famous George Patton quote about a good plan executed today being better than a perfect plan executed at some time in the future.

It’s less important to have a perfect policy. It’s more important to execute the policy you have.

If you’d like some professional advice about writing or executing a records disposal policy, please give me a call: (513) 721-FILE.

August 31, 2011 / Frank J. Albi

Is Cloud Computing for You?

Cloud computing is a hot topic these days, but many don’t understand what cloud computing really is. Very simply, cloud computing involves the use of computer services accessed via the Internet. If you’ve ever bought a book from Amazon or paid a bill via your bank’s website, you’ve been computing in the cloud.

Is it safe?

When considering cloud computing, you might wonder if it’s safe. While the safety of public clouds can be debated, private clouds are considered more trustworthy to keep your data secure. That’s because private services utilize firewalls and other data security techniques to create a safe environment.

All business people care about keeping data secure, but it’s not usually cloud computing that puts your information at risk. Most data security failures have resulted from internal hardware and software failures or accidental deletions.

Cloud computing actually helps protect against such problems. By outsourcing your computing operations to companies that specialize in these services, your business has access to state-of-the-art hardware, software, and data security processes.

Leave IT to the pros

Most of us are in business to do something other than provide computer service. IT operations are not our strategic focus. So turning to cloud computing for data processing or IT applications for most of us is an improvement in how we handle our automated processes.

The fact of the matter is, more IT operations are moving into the cloud. Like it or not, we’ll all soon be doing most of our computing there, too.

July 28, 2011 / Frank J. Albi

Recent HIPAA Fine Is Reminder: Protect Health Records

Does $865,000 seem like a lot of money to you?

That’s how much the UCLA Health System recently agreed to pay in order to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. UCLA will also have to come up with an action plan to put their system in compliance with those rules, as part of the settlement.

The original complaints stemmed from unauthorized employee access to electronic protected health information of patients. An investigation found that records were repeatedly accessed improperly, leading to the $865,000 settlement in early July.

OCR, the federal office overseeing HIPAA, has been cracking down on organizations that violate HIPAA rules, including another recent $1 million settlement with Massachusetts General Hospital.

Every business with employees is likely to manage records that are subject to HIPAA rules. If you know what you have and are properly protecting those files according to HIPAA, you should feel fairly confident that you’re safe from such litigation. If not, let this hard lesson for UCLA Health Systems be a reminder to get your health records in check–before your business faces a hefty fine from OCR.

My company, BIS, manages HIPAA-protected records for numerous health care organizations in the greater Cincinnati area. If you have questions or concerns about your business’ health care records management, please contact me. We’re happy to help ease your HIPAA worries.

July 6, 2011 / Frank J. Albi

Will Outsourcing Records Save Your Company Money?

Managing internal business records is something every organization must do.

But handling such a crucial business function according to best practices? That’s something organizations of all sizes struggle with–particularly if they keep records management in house. After all, dedicating resources and attention to a part of your business that’s not a strategic focus can get expensive. It can also cause you to take your eye off the ball, forcing you to spend more time on your records than your mission. Unfortunately, failure to spend enough time on managing internal business records can have serious legal and financial consequences.

You might already be outsourcing other business functions like accounting, advertising, or website hosting. Many businesses have discovered that engaging an outside firm to provide records control service not only reduces risk and liability, but is no more expensive than hiring an outside plant service. Would outsourcing your current internal records management be a smart move?

To decide, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do your records management processes deliver a unique value to customers and stakeholders?
  • Have you optimized your records management processes or is it just the way it’s always been done at your company?
  • Do you use best practices and best-in-class technology?
  • How much does it cost to maintain the resources—including staffing, technology and processes—devoted to records management throughout the company?
  • Are you satisfied with your current process regarding efficiency, cost, quality and convenience?
  • Could your organization benefit from moving the resources currently invested in records management to more mission-critical tasks?
  • Could outsourcing reduce your costs and risks, improve flexibility and agility, and free up resources to accelerate growth?

Based on the answers to the above questions, you have to decide if the pros of “going pro” with records management are worth it. Some of those benefits include:

  • Staying compliant with current state and federal rules and regulations
  • Automating systems to save time and money
  • Digitizing and disposing of records to maximize efficiency and minimize risk
  • Being “records-ready” for potential mergers and acquisitions
  • Reducing the cost and inefficiency associated with misplaced or lost critical information
  • Innovating with new ideas and technologies you might not have thought of on your own

After evaluating all these questions and considerations, you should be ready to make an informed decision on how to handle your records management. If you have any questions about what to look for in a good records management company, please get in touch with us.

May 31, 2011 / Frank J. Albi

Records Management Time Savers

Managing business records is a lot of work. But it can also save you time — and money — in the long run.

In 1980, I started the first records control company in the Cincinnati area. Over the years, I’ve discovered a number of best practices that will help you save time while you control your business records.

  • Create an inventory of what you have in storage, so you can quickly retrieve records when you need them.
  • Consider using a records control company like BIS that barcodes and tracks records, to help you save time when you need to retrieve them.
  • Establish a disposal schedule — and follow it — so you don’t keep records beyond their required or useful life. Ask your records control company if you can be automatically notified when it’s time to dispose of records. That way, you can painlessly purge your expired files to achieve compliance with your business records disposal schedule.

For more of my thoughts on saving time, take a look at this short video:

May 23, 2011 / Frank J. Albi

Managing Records in Every Form

As your business records take on more forms — and get stored in more ways — the idea of “records control” is evolving to something more complex than it used to be.

Controlling your business records means standardizing how you name those files and scheduling them for proper disposal. What? You thought because digital records weren’t filling up your office storerooms, you should just keep them forever? Nope.

Whether records exist on paper stored in boxes or in virtual folders in the cloud, your business is responsible for managing them according to relevant regulations. All of the best practices pertaining to compliance and risk and liability apply to records regardless of storage medium — digital, paper, or film.

Here’s what I tell my customers: For quick and easy retrieval, electronic records need standard names. Just like biologists use a taxonomy to identify different species, businesses need a taxonomy to identify and deal with their records. A records taxonomy will answer these questions:

  • What is the standard name for each type of record?
  • Who is responsible for the record?
  • Where is the record stored?
  • When can the record be destroyed?
  • How should the record be destroyed (e.g., recycling, shredding, etc.)?

Of course, most companies don’t have a taxonomy for their records, either because they don’t know how valuable it is or they don’t know where to start. In this digital age, taxonomies are more important than ever. Think about it: Human beings may realize that A/P and Accounts Payable mean the same thing when reading a paper record. Computers don’t.

If the prospect of creating naming conventions and disposal schedules seems daunting, get help from experts with records control know-how. For example, our BISplan™ software helps you name files and schedule them for timely disposal. If you have questions about BISplan or my thoughts on records control, please get in touch. I’d love to help.

April 26, 2011 / Frank J. Albi

Spring Cleaning for Your Business

Just as the fresh air and warmer temperatures of spring inspire us to give our homes a thorough cleaning, I think it’s also the perfect time to do a little spring cleaning in the office, too.

I’m not talking about dust bunnies under your desk or leftovers in the office fridge (but by all means, take care of those, too!) I’m talking about spring cleaning your records to ensure you save only what you need and safely dispose of the rest.

A good spring clean will reduce your risk and liability. Start by understanding the business records retention schedule regulations for your business records–personnel files and other HR records in particular. Once you know what you’re required to keep, you can create policies and procedures to be sure records are purged as soon as the applicable disposal period has been satisfied. Timely records purges not only reduce the cost of maintaining inactive files, they also keep possibly damaging records from being used by plaintiff’s attorneys.

Get organized and store the “keepers” to save time and maintain good records. How much time does it take for a file retrieval from your records storage area? Do you have a list of everything you have in file storage? Can you quickly find what documents you need? Time is money, but unlike money, once spent time can never be replaced. Every document you deposit at our Cincinnati document storage facility is barcoded and tracked by business records management software so that you won’t waste time when you need to retrieve records. You can also use tracking to tell you when it’s time to dispose of records so that you can painlessly purge your expired files to achieve compliance with your business records retention schedule. It’s like an automatic cleaning crew for your records.

Safely get rid of records you no longer need. After you fill all those bins with unwanted files (both printed and digital), what are you going to do with them? You can’t simply put them out with the garbage like household trash. Make sure you securely shred the paper and destroy the electronic data. Once the excess clutter is out of your office, you can really enjoy all the extra space and efficiency that comes from a good spring cleaning.

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