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Last night, I reached into the fridge and grabbed a yogurt. Chobani, peach. It's not my favorite Greek yogurt, but it does the job most days. As I peeled the little plastic cover to expose its deliciousness, I noticed something. "APR 6 15" branded in black ink across the wrapper. It was expired. I stared at the yogurt with wide eyes and thought to myself, "Do you think its still good? It looks fine. I guess it smells like yogurt. What does yogurt even smell like? It's only one day. Does that really matter?" The answer is YES - it matters to me. I tossed that possibly rancid container in the trash immediately. I refuse to put my palate at risk... especially for a yogurt that isn't even my favorite.

Then I thought about work.

Authorizations have expiration dates, just like perishable food items. No, they do not begin to smell weird or turn strange colors, but they can still go bad. And there's a lot of confusion around them. So, I thought it would be a good idea to clarify a few things about authorization expiration dates.

Must an authorization always have an expiration date?

In order to be HIPAA compliant, YES. The privacy rule requires that an authorization has either an expiration date or an expiration event. An example of an expiration event would be the resolution of a claim or when a court case is closed or settled.

Can you use the same authorization for multiple reasons?

Yes. Attorneys and insurance companies do this all the time. If an authorization is valid for a year, they can request updated records as many times as they need to within that year's span. All the attorneys/insurance companies need is to add another request page with the new dates requested on that page.

When a patient fills out a form, can they use the same form to request records again in the future?

Yes and no. The authorization does have a one year expiration date. However, since the authorization doubles as the request in most of these cases, if the patient asked for any visits since the last time they were seen by a physician (and requested those records), the answer would be NO. Once the records are sent, we treat the request as being fulfilled and they would need to fill out another form for the updated records.

These are just a few quick answers to common questions we receive about authorization expiration dates. If you ever have any questions or confusion about this, please do not hesitate to contact our Compliance Officer at 615.780.2741 ext. 123 or 

- Stuart Mobley, Director of Quality + Compliance