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February 18, 2009

Message to the President: Don't Ignore EDD Issues While You Revamp Medical Records

Medform President Obama's promised initiative to digitize our nation's health care records may seem a secondary priority in these tough and toughening times, but done right, it can be truly a lifesaving legacy for the administration.  Having spent the last several years dealing with a family illness, I can attest to how much time and energy is wasted re-creating, correcting and retrieving health care records.  Form-after-form-after-form relating the same complaints, histories and medication routines can wear you down. 

This carries a real and human cost, the more tragic because we have the technologies to reduce the cost, save the time and--most importantly--improve the quality of care.  It won't be cheap or easy to implement as doctors are as loathe to change as lawyers; but everyone benefits from the effort, most of all the people we love at the toughest times in their lives.

I post to remind readers that medical records are evidence, and in hopes that some who stop by here have the ear of the Administration--and perhaps the influence to insure that e-discovery concerns have a place at the table when standards and systems are established. 

Doctors don't like to think of medical records as evidence because they personalize the issue.  To them, the very word "evidence" evokes the specter of malpractice, i.e., evidence against them

In fact, malpractice cases are bit players on the evidentiary stage, and reliable, complete, accessible medical records are the best way to avoid malpractice and prove that quality care was given.  Medical records are far more likely to be evidence in insurance disputes, disability claims, employment law cases and in personal injury cases having no connection to the quality of care rendered.  In these matters, hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted annually by having to collect, assimilate and analyze disparate and idiosyncratic medical records from legions of providers.  That's money better spent reducing the cost of quality care and compensating deserving victims.

Certainly electronic discovery concerns shouldn't drive the digital medical records initiative, but neither should such concerns sit on the sidelines.  Let's solve both problems together.  So please Mr. President, have an e-discovery advocate at the table when standards and systems are established, because good medical care is only part of the healing process.  Cost-effectively compensating victims and getting providers paid matters, too.

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