Electronic communication and recordkeeping have undoubtedly changed many facets of how the modern world operates, including the process of "discovery," or the collection of information in preparation for a legal trial. Today's lawyers are using e-discovery to obtain emails, data and other documents for research pertaining to prosecution or defense, and physicians' web based medical software and in-practice networks are no exception.
Reasons for searching a practice's computer system can range from personal litigation between employees to malpractice claims. According to an article in Information Week, data stored in EHRs is fair game, as it exists not just as a resource for doctors and patients, but also as a legal record of a person's conditions and treatments.
"The scope of traditional discovery is expanded. More and more courts are finding that metadata and access to the inner workings of the EHR system is relevant and discoverable," Stacey Cischke, an attorney with Chicago firm Cassiday Schade, told Information Week.
How to avoid problems with e-discovery
There are a few steps doctors and administrators can take to ensure that they are prepared if and when they receive an e-discovery notice. The first is ensuring that all data entered into EHR systems is accurate and up to date, as well as informing employees of prohibited acts, such as accessing EHR data when not authorized to do so and exchanging inappropriate emails with anyone from the office network.
Next, EHR users should know that deleting or altering any relevant documents after being notified of an impending suit is strictly prohibited, and could land them in jail or with hefty fines. Moreover, if a prosecuting attorney suspects this kind of malfeasance, they are allowed to issue a subpoena to review the history of software databases, exposing any possible cover-ups.
Practitioners using chiropractic EHRs should educate themselves and staff members on e-discovery, as well as best practices to avoid legal problems down the line. Implementing policies that clearly outline what type of information is most sensitive and keeping a detailed record of any documents that were rightfully destroyed can both help practices stay within legal parameters.
Even chiropractors who follow best practices in their EHR systems, interoffice communication and patient care should keep potential lawsuits in mind, Cischke told Information Week. This way, they can stay extra vigilant in protecting themselves, their employees and the patients who receive care.
"'Reasonably anticipate litigation' is the key buzz term in e-discovery," Cischke told the news source.