Victims of medical malpractice are most often harmed through no fault of their own. Yet some of the victims of medical negligence may have avoided their serious injuries if they had requested and obtained a copy of their medical records, read them carefully for accuracy, and requested necessary corrections or changes when they discovered errors within their medical records.
We have found that victims of medical malpractice very often have wrong information stated in their medical records, including but not limited to errors regarding the medications they are taking, wrong medical history information, false statements regarding patient statements made to their medical providers, the failure to list results of medical tests or incorrectly stating test results for other patients, the failure to include important information provided by their patients that are relevant to their present and future medical care and treatment, and self-serving statements that medical providers place in patient records regarding information and instructions they allegedly provided their patients regarding their medical condition or treatment options when in fact they failed to do so.
If patients fail to protect themselves by timely requesting copies of their medical records after leaving their medical providers’ offices and making sure misstatements or false information in the records are fully corrected, then decisions regarding future care by future medical providers may be inappropriate, inadequate, or even harmful because future medical providers rely on the information contained in patients’ medical records.
It is becoming increasingly easier for patients to obtain and read their medical records and test results because they have access to the electronic records that most medical providers are now using. Medical providers who use and rely on electronic medical records, including most hospitals and large medical practices throughout the United States, offer their patients the ability to access their medical records through secure portals. Patients need only ask their medical providers, or their office staff, if they offer access to electronic medical records and how to sign up for such access. That way, patients can sign into the portal to access their medical records shortly after a medical appointment and read what the medical provider stated about the visit, the results of the examination, and the instructions allegedly provided to them. If corrections need to be made to the records, the portals often offer the ability to easily request that corrections be made.
While electronic medical records may make it easier for patients to review their own records and test results, almost in real time, one downside to electronic medical records is that medical providers use templates and “drop down menus” that make it easier for providers to make mistakes in entering patient information and errors in populating information into the templates. Once a error is made, the error will often repopulate the records in the future, continuing the error (until and unless corrected) that future medical providers will rely upon in making their treatment decisions that may have been different had the providers had the correct information.
The use of electronic medical records makes it all the more important for patients to carefully and fully read their medical records each time after receiving medical care and treatment, and to contact the medical provider, in writing, regarding any mistakes, errors, falsehoods, or wrong information in their medical records that must be corrected in order to protect patient safety and avoid patients suffering unnecessary harm. Patients must then access their medical records to make sure that the necessary changes have been made so that future medical providers are not misled by relying on the wrong information contained in patient records.
False medical records are not a theory and in fact occur too often. In a medical malpractice claim we recently evaluated, the medical provider stated in the patient’s medical record that he/she performed a certain invasive medical procedure on the patient that in fact never occurred. The same medical provider stated a false medical history for the patient that subsequent medical providers relied upon, which harmed the patient.
Remember, it is the medical provider who writes the medical reports and it is not in the financial interest of medical providers to provide information or admit in the patient’s medical records that a medical error negligently occurred. If you did not carefully read your medical report shortly after it was created, timely noting the errors and seeking corrections, a negligent medical provider may escape liability for the harm you suffered due to medical negligence by arguing to a medical malpractice jury that the information in your medical record absolves him/her from responsibility in causing injury.
If you or a loved one may have been harmed as a result of medical malpractice in the United States, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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