Underground Archives Digs Deep to Solve Records Problem for Excela Health

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By Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Safely ensconced in an old limestone mine, Underground Archives offers clients secure records management and asset preservation in Lawrence County, PA. Being underground offers many benefits. The mine maintains a constant temperature of 55 degree Fahrenheit and controlled humidity and a sprawling 2.5 million square feet of storage space.  Additionally, storing paper records, digital materials and even artwork underground minimizes the risks of losing valuable materials to natural disasters.

CEO Daniel Bruce assures clients that employees of Underground Archives are bonded and familiar with the compliance obligations of federal laws governing records management, such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), of special significance to healthcare systems, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), which mandates financial reporting and auditing standards.

But Underground Archives does more than store boxes of files. Services such as document destruction, file purges, condensing and indexing can benefit small and mid-size businesses with limited onsite storage room. Healthcare systems especially can utilize the digital archival service offered by Underground Archives.

Underground Archives recently wrapped up a two-year project for Excela Health System, consolidating and purging records from 165 different departments at the three hospitals, including numerous physician practices, medical supplies providers and administrative departments. Prior to working with Underground Archives, medical records sat in numerous warehouses, scattered across the region with no organization and often lingered well beyond the required time period for compliance.

From July to November of 2010, up to 30 Underground Archives staff worked at the various warehouses leased by Excela Health to fix this outdated arrangement. Staff processed, sorted, packaged, and moved over 400,000 patient files alone. After processing and purging files at the warehouse, eighteen-wheeler trucks made several trips moving pallet after pallet to their subterranean destination. By July 2011, Underground Archives staff completed additional cataloguing, barcoding and final clean-up of the system’s records.

Desiree Seaburn, project manager from Underground Archives, said dealing with the weather was the most challenging aspect of this massive project.

“We had bad roads in the winter and no heat in the warehouses and that was hard,” she recalls. “But getting the health system department managers to identify which files could be destroyed and which to keep was not bad. Everyone was ready to help and had a great attitude.”

Seaburn worked closely with Carol Roney, then the Compliance Officer for Excela Health. Roney confirms that the system has already seen financial and administrative benefits from this undertaking.

“We’ve been able to renegotiate some leasing agreements and save some money there right away,” Roney stated.

Despite the lengthy sorting and cataloguing process, system staff had some excitement when they unearthed a few historical treasures. Roney described their amazement when they found a gigantic leather-bound admissions register used by Latrobe Hospital in the 1900’s. “It was really eye-opening to look through that ledger and see the average cost of a hospital stay back then was only five dollars,” Roney said.

Excela Health representatives met with several records management organizations but selected Underground Archives because of their willingness to meet the unique needs of the system.

“They were the most flexible when it came to dealing with our specific requirements and unusual records. We had some biohazard materials, x-rays, pathology slides, and other difficult to store records,” said Roney.  “Working with their staff was just extremely easy.”

For more information on Underground Archives, please visit www.uarchives.com. For more information on Excela Health, please visit www.excelahealth.com.