Why Data Ownership Is Such a Big Deal

Posted on: 16 March 2021


Medical records and billing are now almost all electronic in many hospitals and doctor's offices. That means that your patients' records are not just records but data as well. A common question you see in medical billing company FAQs is about who owns the data, meaning who owns the records from the patients and the data regarding the codes for the procedures you need to bill for. While this may seem like a no-brainer (the data belongs to you, right?) it's actually not. Data ownership is a big deal, and it's something you have to ask about whenever you think about contracting with medical billing services.

It's Not Guaranteed Unless the Company States So

First, data ownership isn't guaranteed unless the company states so in its contracts. Generally speaking, good medical billing companies will clearly state on their websites and in their contracts that you still own the data they produce. They may keep records, of course; that helps with repeat billing. However, you should retain ownership of the data you send to them. Make sure that ownership is clearly defined and stated in your contract (or in supplemental documentation that is included with the contract).

Who Owns the Data Controls It (Within the Law)

Data ownership allows the owner to do what they want with the data, within reason. Privacy laws, for example, still apply to the medical data and your patients' records, so you can't take the billing data and release it publicly, for example, without getting the informed consent of all the patients involved. But the data owner can still control how the data is used, such as preventing others from moving the data to different locations. You wouldn't want the billing company to prevent you from transferring the data to a new system, for example, when you upgrade your records software.

Your Patients Want to Know the Data's Reach Is Protected

Plus, your patients want to know that their data is being protected. They don't want it sold or placed in insecure systems, and they want to know that the minimum possible number of people are looking at it. When you retain ownership of the billing data, your patients know that you're not going to be showing it to tons of people; they know you're bound by certain privacy laws. When the data ownership transfers to a company that's essentially unknown to the patients, they may be more worried about what will be done with the data after the billing is over.

Again, good medical billing companies spell out that you retain ownership of the data you send to them. Be sure data is among your top questions as you interview different companies.