Client Records and Natural Disasters: Tips for Reporting Loss and for Recovery
Beyond the devastation and disruption natural disasters can cause, there also can be serious repercussions for client record retention, privacy and risk management.
In the wake of a natural disaster, it is important to be mindful of professional guidelines and legislation, and to comply with the NASW Code of Ethics; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and HITECH Electronic Privacy Acts; and individual state laws.
See Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act Interim Final Rules for more.
Following are five tips to follow if records have been lost or destroyed as a result of a natural disaster:
- Check with each health insurance carrier to see what forms need to be submitted to officially notify them of lost or destroyed client records.
- Save documentation from the property insurance company or appraiser that verified the damage — to prevent claims of spoliation and prove that the destruction was not intentional.
- Notify all clients, including the date and under what circumstances the records were destroyed or lost. Send each client appropriate forms — such as history or insurance forms — to begin a new client record. Keep a copy of the notification letter in each new file.
- Notify the state licensing board of examiners. Include the date, circumstances, approximate number of records lost or destroyed due to disaster, and patient notification actions taken. The state licensing board may also be able to provide guidance about required steps to take.
- Contact the NASW-endorsed Professional Liability Program Helpline for assistance and to report the record loss.
If records are damaged, there are national reputable firms that specialize in electronic data recovery and record restoration, including drying of water-damaged records. Consult a professional immediately for what to do, and what not to do.
Most professional liability policies do not cover claims due to loss or damage from natural disasters, so consider additional coverage for these types of exposures.
For more information on the NASW-Endorsed Professional Liability Insurance Program, visit NASW Assurance Services.
NASW Insurance Company Receives ‘Excellent’ Rating
NASW Insurance Company (NASWIC), a subsidiary corporation of NASW Assurance Services, has been rated “excellent” by A.M. Best. The rating places NASWIC among the highest-rated insurance companies in the nation. It also reflects NASWIC’s strong capital position, underwriting profitability and favorable experience in providing social worker professional liability insurance products.
Specialty Practice Sections
NASW Specialty Practice Sections will offer the second series of Section Connection this summer. The series is offered twice a year and includes 11 newsletters — each one focusing on a different area of social work.
Topics include mental health, ethics, children and families, social justice, supervision, addiction and aging. Some highlights of the summer series include articles on the DSM-5 changes; social workers who made a difference in New York City hospitals during Hurricane Sandy; and addressing the controversial issue of match parties.
Social Work is the premiere journal of the social work profession. Widely read by practitioners, faculty and students, it is the official journal of NASW and is provided to all members as a membership benefit. View the contents of the latest Social Work journal, on the Oxford Academic website.
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