Medical Records the Smoking Gun in Malpractice Suits

Medical MalpracticeMany people think of medical records as something only a hospital or doctor’s office handles.  After all, most people rely on their doctors to interpret documents such as x-rays, mammograms, or blood tests.

However, the importance of keeping a complete record of personal health history is twofold.  Complete medical records can improve the quality of care a patient receives, and they may serve as a strong legal tool for justice in the event of medical malpractice.

Medical treatment that is based on lack of information or misinformation can be fatal.  This is especially true in emergency situations, when a patient is traveling, or if a patient is switching doctors. A complete medical record can also help prevent misdiagnosis.

The healthcare landscape is undergoing major changes.  Modern medicine has seen an increased reliance on specialists. The average person may see a general practitioner, a pulmonologist, a gastroenterologist, an E.N.T. or a cardiologist.

Despite the fact that patients spread their care over multiple physicians, it seems doctors have less time.  Gone are the days of house calls.  Appointments are overbooked, and most doctors are members of large practices where they see hundreds of patients weekly. Now, patients must be partners in care with their doctors. The record keeping element of maintaining wellness has become just as much the patient’s responsibility as it is the healthcare institution’s.

Quality care isn’t the only motive for keeping complete medical records. The completeness and accuracy of medical records can be a strong legal tool in personal injury cases.  Whether the personal injury arises from an automobile accident, a malfunctioning medical device, a defective drug, or medical malpractice, complete medical records can be used as evidence to seek justice.

Patient medical records are crucial to prove claims in most medical malpractice suits.  Often these records show documented proof of negligence on the part of the doctor.  Even if the records do not contain enough evidence, they can still be of use for the testimony of expert witnesses.

Generally, patients are entitled to official copies of their records.  The process of contacting past doctors from years back can be arduous.  It is generally advised start building a medical history file by requesting medical records with each visit to the doctor.  In this way, a patient will have them before a claim arises.

This level of preparedness and organization is not very common.  Typically, medical records are scattered among physicians, lost in transfer, and sometimes illegally altered.  A victim of medical malpractice may run into problems obtaining their records, or a healthcare provider may not cooperate. As medical malpractice attorneys, we can obtain these records on behalf of clients.

For more information about medical malpractice, please contact Alex McMullen at McMullen & Drury.

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