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Can Electronic Medical Records Cause Hurdles in Legal Cases?

by | Mar 27, 2024 | Medical Record Review

In personal injury and medical malpractice litigation, electronic medical records (EMRs) play a significant role. Making use of electronic medical records in medico-legal cases have their own benefits as well as challenges. This blog dissects the essence of EMRs, identify the challenges of electronic medical records in legal claims and show how to resolve those hurdles.

What are Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)?

Electronic medical records are digital or electronic versions of the traditional paper medical charts stored on a computer in a physician’s clinic. They contain the demographic data, medical history such as symptoms, diagnoses, medications prescribed, tests, allergies and invasive treatment details of the patients over time within one practice.

EMRs are more than just static collections for patient data; they can track data over time. Physicians can easily identify patients due for preventive screenings or checkups, monitor how patients measure up to certain parameters like vaccinations and blood pressure readings, and improve overall quality of care within the practice. The patient data in EMRs are not usually shared or sent outside of the practice such as to the labs or other hospitals.

How EMR Differs From EHR

While the terms EMR and EHR are often used interchangeably, there are significant differences between the two. The fundamental distinction lies in the scope and breadth of the data contained. EHRs are designed to contain and share information from all the clinicians involved in a patient’s care, including a more comprehensive patient history.

EHR makes the interoperability of medical data between facilities. Unlike EMR, it can be shared outside the facility that initially collects and prepares the medical data. They are designed to share information with multiple health care providers, such as laboratories, imaging and emergency facilities and specialists, and outside the facility. They contain information from all clinicians involved in the patient’s care and provide a more comprehensive view of a patient’s health history. EHR data can be accessed by physicians from wherever they are and whenever they need.

Is there any advantages in using EMRs to establish claims?

Definitely! There are many advantages in using Electronic medical records to prove legal claims.

Data clarity and accuracy: EMRs give accurate and precise accounts of a plaintiff’s medical history, diagnoses, treatments and the outcomes. This could help the lawyers in assessing the validity of claims and ensuring that all medical events are accurately represented in EMRs. EMRs also save lawyers from tackling illegible hand written charts, misplaced or missing documents or medical data transcription errors.

Easy to access and review: Digital medical records can be accessed easily and helpful in reducing time lapse in legal proceedings. Lawyers and record reviewers can access the data remotely, which nullifies the risk of losing records while transferring medical records physically. It also expedites the record review and thereby quickens legal process.

Organized data: As e-medical records are organized systematically, it will be easy to locate specific medical information. Organized medical data can be vital during the discovery phase of lawsuits, as relevant data can be located with ease.

High data security: EMRs are subject to federal data security compliance like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which ensures patient’s sensitive data protection.

Cost efficiency: Use of EMRs reduces the cost for paper, printing, storing and transporting data physically. This can save the expenses for law firms and their clients, as there are voluminous medical records involved in every complex lawsuit.

Treatment Timeline preparation: Use of EMRs can be helpful in preparing a treatment timeline of a plaintiff with significant medical events to prove the causation and progression of injury and its impacts on the plaintiff’s life.

Standardized medical data: EMRs follow standardized format and medical terminology, which reduces the likelihood of misinterpretation of complex medical jargon. This can be beneficial for attorneys unfamiliar with medical terms and helps them in accurate interpretation of the medical conditions and treatment procedures.

Easy Data transfer: Law firms can share the data among the medical experts, lawyers and other consultants with ease. They can discuss the medical records in real-time, and plan out legal strategies to handle claims effectively.

Hurdles in Using EMR in Proving Legal Claims

Despite the advantages, there are several hurdles in using EMRs to prove legal claims:

Complexity and inconsistency: EMRs can vary significantly in format and content between different healthcare providers, making it difficult to locate and interpret specific pieces of information.

Compatibility issues: Problems with software compatibility can hinder the process of obtaining a comprehensive view of a patient’s medical history from different sources. To elicit valuable data from varying EMRs, lawyers may need different types of expensive decoders or software, which can increase the expenses of the law firms.

Data tampering concerns: There’s a risk of medical data being altered, either maliciously or unintentionally, without leaving a clear audit trail. This can raise questions about the reliability and credibility of the records in proving plaintiff’s damages.

Privacy regulations: Strict regulations like HIPAA can complicate the process of acquiring and sharing EMRs for legal purposes.

Technical errors: Errors in data entry, software bugs, or other technical issues can lead to inaccuracies in the medical records that may not reflect the actual medical treatment or patient status. Sometimes, it can lead to loss of medical data, causing gaps in comprehending plaintiff’s medical history or significant facts that can impact cases.

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How can medical record review providers help resolve this issue?

Medical record review providers have vast experience in handling varied formats of medical data and in-depth knowledge in complex medical terms and procedures. Assistance of expert record reviewers can be of great help in overcoming the hurdles in making use of EMRs in medico-legal cases.

Expertise: They have diverse experience in sifting through the complexities of EMRs and cherry picking the relevant data pertinent to legal claims. Their understanding of the nuances and variances across various EMR systems helps them handle even complex EMR systems easy.

Verify data integrity: Using their unique methods to verify the integrity of the medical data, medical reviewers can ensure that the data in EMRs are accurate and unaltered.

Diverse technology to decode data: Experienced review providers will have advanced software technologies to bridge the gap between various EMR types. With their enhanced technology, they can elicit the data from different types of EMR systems and provide a comprehensive and coherent review report.

Regulatory compliance issues: They ensure that all record retrieval and review processes comply with data security regulations and mitigate the risk of legal challenges in electronic medical records pertaining to data breaches or unauthorized access to sensitive patient data.

Organized summaries: They can surf through vast amount of medical data in no time and prepare concise and accurate medical summaries that can pick out vital medical facts relevant to specific cases. This will help the lawyers to build their cases strong, plan out legal strategies and decide on the expert witnesses to be included in the case.

To conclude,

While the use of EMRs has revolutionized data management in healthcare and legal spaces, it cannot come without its share of challenges. Making use of Electronic medical records data in legal claims include a thorough understanding of the nuances and technology involved. Experienced medical record review providers can overcome these hurdles with their expertise and resources to ensure that EMRs provide maximum output in their intended purpose in establishing legal cases.

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