Winter may be melting away, but shipping delays continue to persist.
USPS is experiencing a plethora of delivery setbacks, frequently exceeding a month. Worse still, USPS does not guarantee any of its shipping windows. The postal service currently lists shipping times for First-Class Mail at one-to-three business days. So what are considered a shipping delays? USPS does not consider a package late until five days have passed from the ship date.
UPS and FedEx deliveries are no less erratic. UPS previously suspended their service guarantee in March of 2020. FedEx has implemented shipping surcharges, in addition to suspending its money-back guarantee policy. These shipping lags are now creating issues when sending and receiving time-sensitive legal documents, specifically medical records, and radiological studies.
When sending records to subcontractors, such as medical experts and certified medical illustrators, the clock is ticking. It is often an impractical workaround to send materials four-to-six weeks earlier than average. Thankfully, alternative delivery options do exist, some of which are instantaneous.
If the recipient is within the shipping radius of a reliable courier service, you could have records sent as soon as the same day. Experienced couriers like New Jersey Lawyer Service deliver legal documents to New Jersey, greater Philadelphia, and New York City’s boroughs. These services offer package tracking, signature confirmation, and photographic evidence of delivery, making couriers a reliable shipping method.
This option can be costly, however, and delivery availability would be confined within a specific radius. Consider this option if expediency is your goal.
You could also dust off the old fax machine to save time and money. Remember to maintain client confidentiality and confirm the recipient’s fax number before sending any sensitive information. If you have an offline fax machine, ensure that the phone line is secure. Confirm that your faxing service provider uses SSL protocols and advanced encryptions if your office has online faxing.
While faxing allows you to send large quantities of records, there are a few drawbacks. Faxed documents are typical of lower quality than the original. You won’t be able to send digital images, like radiology studies, in this manner either.
Then the obvious choice is email, correct? Perhaps not. Email can be quick and painless – not a shipping delay in sight! If you already have the recipient’s contact information and all parties know how to use it, then you should be good to go. Plus, email can send medical records AND digital images. However, two disadvantages must be kept firmly in mind when using this versatile medium: capacity and security.
The maximum amount of data an email can carry usually tops out at ten megabytes. That’s not a lot of room when you consider an entire compact disc of radiological studies can run between fifty to hundreds of megabytes. For us to render our illustrations accurately, all the data from the studies must be included. When you consider multiple studies over many discs, the number of megabytes can run into the thousands. With only ten megabytes with which to work, email isn’t built for large files. Also, email isn’t encrypted. And while it is unlikely, it can be compromised by unsavory characters.
We all depend on email for our daily correspondences. If you choose this method to send moderately large files (under the ten-megabyte threshold), verify that your message hasn’t ended up in the spam folder, and your recipient can open all your pertinent files.
We’ve found that the most efficient method to send large quantities of records are file-sharing services such as Dropbox. Dropbox encrypts its resting files and utilizes SSL to protect data in transport; two-step authentication can be enabled for additional security. Their services are HIPPA compliant as well. Dropbox allows its users to share large files with non-users through email links instantly. You can also choose to enable or prohibit your client from editing the records.
If you are sharing or requesting files for the first time, we highly suggest this tutorial:
No matter the option for transmitting your client’s medical records, communication is vital in avoiding shipping delays and other mishaps.
If you encounter shipping delays, provide frequent status updates to your recipient. Consider the potential costs such as time, money, and security of your shipment options, and make the best choice to get the job done efficiently.
About the Author:
Ronald Mathias, CMI, is the Founder and Managing Member of Anatomical Justice, LLC. He has been immersed in medical media production and visual translation for the past twenty-five years. During that time, he has created thousands of innovative demonstrative aids for personal injury, medical malpractice and product liability cases for plaintiff and defendant attorneys across the US. His work has also included artwork for medical textbooks, journals, medical device advertising, comic books, and storyboarding for film.