I read with great interest a recent article regarding a lawsuit against Accretive Health Inc. where the company is being sued by the Minnesota Attorney General. Its license to collect in the state of Minnesota also has been suspended. This is all due to a security breach that was the result of a lost laptop computer.
I can only assume the computer was not encrypted to properly safeguard the patient/account information it contained. Now you’re probably thinking that I am going to drone on about the importance of proper data security – well, you would be wrong (that’s another blog entry…and I am happy to report that DANTOM is Tech Lock certified!).
What struck me in this story was that Accretive must also turn over to the state all letters, notices, and other written documents used to collect debt in the state of Minnesota. This would be a burdensome request for any company, but with proper planning it could easily be accomplished.
Keeping good historical records regarding your collection activity is a great idea and can prove helpful in protecting your company’s interests. Often times agencies need letter copies or data sets from many years prior to address requests from a debtor, in many cases from a plaintiff attorney or for defense during legal proceedings. Having reliable and ready access to these documents is important.
As you consider the options available, think about how you intend to use the archived documents or data. Also consider the applicable document retention regulatory and client requirements. (ACA FastFax #2037 outlines each state’s requirements.) All of these factors will help determine the best option based on need and expense.
One of the simplest ways to archive documents is to get all the letters your company sends converted into PDF format. When the data stream that controls high speed production printers is created, the system can also convert that same data to PDF format for retention and storage. It is important to note that these PDF images are an exact rendering of what is printed and mailed to the responsible party and thus meet document retention requirements. Usually the file naming convention is developed with your input and typically incorporates the account number and the letter code that was being sent. This allows you to easily search and retrieve a document from storage. The PDF files are transmitted to you via secure FTP or encrypted hard drive.
As the ARM industry is embracing the use of more on-line tools, we have seen a great increase in the request for secure Web-based document archives. With this type of tool, your PDF images are available for viewing on the Internet. Using 128 byte SSL secured Web portals, you can easily access all of your documents, whether sent by USPS or e-mail. Generally, you can perform searches based on a wide variety of variable data elements used to create the notice or letter such as name, account number, letter type, date, etc. Document access is easily controlled and managed using role-based security credentials that are part of the Web site’s administrative function.
Many debt collection agencies, especially in the healthcare sector, are using Web archives as a tool to support call center teams and customer service staff. If a responsible party needs a reprint of a letter, it is easily available. If a credit grantor client would like to see a copy of a particular letter sent to one of its customers, it is immediately available and easily accessible through the secure Web site. In some cases, you may want to provide your customers with access to the Web archive so they can self-service when a copy of a document is needed (no need for them to tax your customer service resources). In addition to serving as a simple Web archive, these same PDF images can also be incorporated into Web-based presentment and payment sites.
As you consider your company’s archival requirements there are several options available with varying levels of functionality. You will find that having ease of access to archived documents benefits your efficiency in servicing both debtors and your customers.
Mike McDonnell, Vice President of Sales – Eastern Region for DANTOM Systems, Inc., has more than 15 years of business process outsourcing expertise, managing strategic relationships and applications in the Financial Services and Collections Industry. McDonnell’s experience covers both third-party collection and first-party billing applications including traditional letters and statements as well as secure Internet-based presentment and payment applications. He has been an ACA Affiliate member since 1995 and currently serves on the ACA Board of Directors. McDonnell can be reached by email.
Known for its innovation and flawless execution, DANTOM Systems, Inc. is the leading receivables communication provider. DANTOM experts take the time to understand customers’ unique business requirements and tailor a solution to meet their receivables communication needs, including electronic bill presentment, payment portal, online archive, eNotice collection letters as well as dynamic full color digital ouput. The company partners with more than 900 organizations to create high-impact receivables documents while lowering costs – positively impacting their bottom line.