A patient’s medical record is not only a living, breathing document of a patient’s health & care. It’s also a legal document that is usually the best defence against malpractice claims. Proper documentation is what will be used to prove whether the correct care was provided.
Malpractice claims have risen dramatically over the last decade. Doctors & providers simply have to be covered, both in terms of insurance & documentation, to protect themselves from such claims. It’s much easier to prove negligence on the part of the doctor if attorneys present poor documentation. Or worse yet, don’t have the documents to submit due to loss or theft.
Best Practices to minimise your risk
Your trail of patient care – be it paper-based or an electronic – is how you potentially prevent medical errors, adverse patient outcomes & medical liability. Whether paper or electronic, common-sense best practices are still applicable & should include:
- Ensure that the documentation is accurate, complete, relevant, & up-to-date.
- Avoid cut-&-paste practices that can lead to mixed or contradictory messaging.
- Unsolicited comments should be avoided
- Use standardised formates
- Read the information once it has been entered into the system to ensure its correct before finalising a chart entry
- Any alteration to the record needs to be documented, timestamped & signed
- Attached documents such as diagrams, laboratory results, photographs, charts, etc. should always be labelled
- Continue to educate yourself on how to improve record keeping.
How Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) help to further minimise your risk*
An EMR is an electronic equivalent of your paper patient file. Good EMRs have built-in functionality that can work in your defence should you be presented with a malpractice claim. Here is how an EMR can minimise your risk:
- Timestamps. All data inputted into an EMR is timestamped & dated, minimising confusion of when something was done.
- Records deletion. Any notes deleted from a patient’s file needs to be acknowledged. An EMR will hide notes, with reason for removal, from the patient timeline but will not delete them from the patient file.
- Standardised formates. When documenting patient information, it is importnat to do so in a standard format. EMRs standardise & organise data for you.
- Records patient communications. Should patients dispute being properly informed or not giving consent, using an EMR will enable you to send confirmation electronic communications that are linked to the file & can be used to help prove otherwise.
- Access tracking. Should a patient be concerned that their information was accessed by unauthorised users, an EMR can provide an accurate trail of who accessed the file & when.
Ultimately, whether done electronically or on paper, every medical provider should ask whether their charting can properly, completely, & effectively communicate to all others who may need to review the information. Ensuring that effective & proper documentation is the standard, will have a resounding positive impact on patient care & will keep doctors where we need them – with their patients & not in the courtroom.
EMRs make proper patient charting easier. To find out more about the benefits of an EMR, click here.
*Not all technology is created equally, the benefits & functionality described in this article is based on Healthbridge’s Healthbridge Clinical.
Disclaimer: The information provided is general in nature & should not be considered sound advice. In all cases, you should consult with professional advisors familiar with your particular situation before making business, legal or any other decisions.