The validity of claims in medical malpractice/negligence, personal injury and mass tort cases is established through a comprehensive medical record review. This involves the review of a large volume of medical records so that all aspects of the case can be studied. The health records of a patient contain details such as diagnosis, medications, medical and social history, tests and procedures, and evaluations performed by medical professionals. While a detailed review of the medical records helps the attorney identify the validity of proof of usage to the proof of injury in mass tort cases, in personal injury and tort claims it helps establish liability and damages which is vital when it comes to getting compensation for the injury. However, the process of reviewing the medical records is not an easy one and is fraught with challenges for the attorney. The first step, namely procuring the relevant medical records from various healthcare providers including hospitals, clinics, ambulance service, diagnostic facilities, pharmacies and so on itself is tedious and time-consuming. There are other challenges as well.
- Voluminous Medical Records: In most cases, there may be hundreds of thousands of medical records, especially with those that involve hospital admissions and surgical or other complex procedures.
- Time Consuming: Given the large volume of medical records, attorneys and their in-house teams will have to spend a great deal of time with these records.
- Unorganized Records: Most providers send the records in a totally unorganized manner, which can be really challenging for the attorney to arrange chronologically and make sense out of it. To overcome this challenge, attorneys can consider utilizing outsourced medical record organization solutions.
- Irrelevant Records: Since the medical records come from various healthcare providers and facilities at different times, there are issues such as duplicate records, irrelevant records, records before the date of the incident and so on.
- Missing or Incomplete Records: There may be records and medical bills that are missing, and it is vital for the attorney to find these relating to specific dates or providers.
- Problems with Interpreting the Medical Records: Providers may have their own unique formats for preparing the records and the legal team could find it really challenging to interpret these.
- Lack of Meaningful Information with Electronic Medical Records: EHRs are legible, but they may not give meaningful information. Typically, the provider clicks through several screens to include data to the checklists. This could cause loss of narrative data that is vital to understand the events and analyze a personal injury or medical malpractice case. Many EHR software systems are cumbersome and records are often printed out in a random order.
- Handwritten Records: Some healthcare facilities still have older handwritten records that may be illegible. This can lead to serious mistakes when attorneys have to try and determine which provider wrote what, and put together the various medical events.
- Complex Medical Terminology and Unfamiliar Medical Abbreviations: Even if the medical record is neatly prepared, unfamiliar medical terms and abbreviations are difficult for an attorney and his/her legal team to understand.
- Difficulty Determining the Relevancy of the Medical Records: Legal professionals untrained in medical aspects may find it challenging to determine which medical records are relevant to the case. This could lead to them retrieving irrelevant records and wasting a lot of time trying to decode the facts in them.
The above-mentioned challenges could prove to be a major concern for busy attorneys and their teams. A practical solution to address this would be to hire a professional medical record review firm to collect, review and summarize the medical records. Experienced reviewers can make the entire record review process hassle-free, and perform the review in the capacity of expert witnesses. They will ensure that you receive a complete medical record and also easily identify what is missing in the chart. With such expert solutions, attorneys can obtain a clear understanding of potential damages at an early stage itself. This will help avoid or minimize the challenges associated with prosecuting or defending a case.
Read our infographic on Medical Record Review Challenges In Medical Malpractice Lawsuits [Infographic]