Although paper medical records still exist, more and more clinics, offices and hospitals are moving to electronic records. These electronic records in some cases are nothing more than digitized versions of what would normally appear in a patient's paper chart. In other cases, information from monitors such as blood pressure monitors or heart monitors may be recorded digitally and stored centrally in a database for the institution. The following article discusses some of the issues associated with electronic medical records, including the use of audit trails and access logs to understand who has reviewed a record, and if changes were made to the record.
A recent review of cases conducted by the Canadian Medical Protective Association, an organization that defends physicians in Canada, has found that most medical malpractice cases involving stroke had issues with the diagnosis. This means that sometimes doctors are missing the signs of stroke at initial presentation thereby depriving patients of necessary prompt treatment. In the cases reviewed, more than 25% of patients died and another 40% were left with a significant disability.
More than 90% of the callers to our office are motivated by the fact that theyhave had to endure a great deal of pain and suffering as a result of what they believe was medical negligence. Within minutes of our conversation however, virtually all of those callers are disappointed to learn that in Canada, even with catastrophic injuries, the maximum amount that our courts will award for their misery is considerably less than they expect. So why are the awards for pain and suffering so low?
A Canadian courtroom never looks like the American television courtroom. Heated courtroom battles where lawyers dressed in business suits yell at each other using theatrical outbursts to persuade the jury and breathless investigators run into the courtroom at the 11th hour with a newly discovered piece of evidence, culminating in the court ordering a multi-million dollar medical malpractice award for the plaintiff - that doesn't happen in Canada. Of course some of this excitement is purely tv-land drama, but some of it can be explained by the differences in our legal systems.
I began practicing medical malpractice law well over a decade ago, and over the years I have spoken with hundreds of people about potential lawsuits against doctors.