Accurate medical records are crucial to both the legal and medical professions. Clear and comprehensive accounts of a patient’s medical history impact the litigation process on either side of the dispute.
Lawyers who manage personal injury cases, medical malpractice lawsuits, or workers’ compensation claims know medical records don’t just contain the necessary background information needed for both parties, they can also expose errors or omissions that will win them their case. Without a full medical history, lawyers could miss key insights during the litigation process, miss out on a chance to support their argument, or delay the process of a case.
In any case, accessing records is important—especially in situations where complex and detailed medical documentation plays a crucial role.
The time consuming task of organizing medical records
Processing medical records can involve scanning, indexing, and filing hundreds (if not thousands) of pages per case. Since the volume of these reports is so high—and since traditional automation isn’t suited to the unstructured nature of medical records—this work is often done by hand.
Reviewing medical records can take hours, with many firms unable to process 100 pages in under 30 minutes manually. The task of reviewing, sorting, labeling, and summarizing medical records is typically left to junior members of the team, put off, or done haphazardly according to urgency or importance. However, if medical records are not sorted, indexed, and organized properly, it can lead to losing more than just time. For personal injury cases, medical malpractice lawsuits, or workers’ compensation claims, the details of these records are often the backbone of the case and lend valuable insight into the lawyer’s arguments.
The benefits of processing records early
To commence litigation relating to an accident, injury, or insurance claim, lawyers need access to medical records related to the case. These records not only provide tangible evidence to the extent of a patient’s injuries or the nature of the incident, but also gives the legal team an idea of what the patient’s life looked like before and after the injury.
For example, in an automobile accident causing chronic pain, a patient with a record of doctor’s visits, steroid treatments, and physiotherapy for a bad back in the years prior to the event is different from someone with no such medical history or pre-existing medical conditions. Personal injury, insurance, or workers’ compensation claims require lawyers request records dating back years before the accident, as well as a comprehensive account of healthcare visits, including hospitals, chiropractors, or physiotherapists.
This amounts to a lot of data. As the case proceeds into the discovery process, these documents will need to be produced to the opposing counsel, analyzed as part of the case, or provided to medical experts for their opinion—which means delays can cost both money and time.
Impact of early records processing on litigation
Processing medical records in advance can not only help identify potential issues early on in the case (and avoiding costly delays or missing evidence), it can also make it easier for the lawyers or physicians reviewing the file. An organized, indexed medical history makes it easier for key actors to access what they need: medical experts can access the parts of the file relevant to them, and lawyers can back up their argument with evidence relevant to the case.
This leads to greater efficiency, improved accuracy, and reduced cost. More accurate and complete records are less likely to produce any surprises or challenges later on in the case. Having work done in less time means fewer unexpected costs such as overtime pay, rush fees, or postponed court dates—which is good for both lawyers and the patients they represent.
Best practices for early records processing
Medical records are the backbone of personal injury cases, workers’ compensation claims, or medical malpractice lawsuits. Having the right systems and tools in place to ensure these documents are processed properly—and well in advance—comes down to:
- Having systems and tools in place to seek out, request, and retrieve relevant medical documents, such as checklists, trusted vendors, or designated staff.
- Working with advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence or machine learning, to help streamline the process of organizing these documents. Unlike pure automation, these tools can handle the unstructured nature of medical files, and still rely on a professional to interpret and analyze the information.
- Coordinating with other parties, such as opposing counsel, medical experts, and healthcare providers to ensure medical records are provided, processed, and used as efficiently as possible.
Medical records are a critical component of many types of litigation. It’s essential for lawyers to start processing medical records early in order to ensure the records they have are both accurate and complete. Delaying this process can lead to increased costs, time delays, and incomplete or inaccurate records, all of which can harm the client’s case. However, with the right systems, tools, and resources, lawyers can work to ensure a smoother and more successful litigation process overall.
Written by: Jenna Earnshaw, Head of Revenue of Wisedocs
Jenna Earnshaw is the Head of Revenue at Wisedocs. Jenna has spent over a decade working with technology startups and scaling them from pre- to 8-figure revenue. In her free time, you can find Jenna reading, podcasting, and supporting the startup community.