Medical Record and Issues in Negligence

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'Medical records and issues in negligence'

Abstract
It is very important for the treating doctor to properly document the management of a patient under his care. Medical record keeping has evolved into a science of itself. This will be the only way for the doctor to prove that the treatment was carried out properly. Moreover, it will also be of immense help in the scientific evaluation and review of patient management issues. Medical records form an important part of the management of a patient. It is important for the doctors and medical establishments to properly maintain the records of patients for two important reasons. The first one is that it will help them in the scientific evaluation of their patient profile, helping in analyzing the treatment results, and to plan treatment protocols. It also helps in planning governmental strategies for future medical care. But of equal importance in the present setting is in the issue of alleged medical negligence. The legal system relies mainly on documentary evidence in a situation where medical negligence is alleged by the patient or the relatives. In an accusation of negligence, this is very often the most important evidence deciding on the sentencing or acquittal of the doctor. With the increasing use of medical insurance for treatment, the insurance companies also require proper record keeping to prove the patient's demand for medical expenses. Improper record keeping can result in declining medical claims. It is disheartening to note that inspite of knowing the importance of proper record keeping it is still in a nascent stage in India. It is wise to remember that “Poor records mean poor defense, no records mean no defense”. Medical records include a variety of documentation of patient's history, clinical findings, diagnostic test results, preoperative care, operation notes, post operative care, and daily notes of a patient's progress and medications. A properly obtained consent will go a long way in proving that the procedures were conducted with the concurrence of the patient. A properly written operative note can protect a surgeon in case of alleged negligence due to operative complications. It is important that the prescription for drugs should be legible with the name of the patient, date, and the signature of the doctor. An undated prescription can land a doctor in trouble if the patient misuses it. There are also many records that are indirectly related to patient management such as accounts records, service records of the staff, and administrative records, which are also useful as evidences for litigation purposes. Medical recording needs the concerted effort of a number of people involved in patient care. The doctor is the prime person who has to oversee this process and is primarily responsible for history, physical examination, treatment plans, operative records, consent forms, medications used, referral papers, discharge records, and medical certificates. There should be proper recording of nursing care, laboratory data, reports of diagnostic evaluations, pharmacy records, and billing processes. This means that the paramedical and nursing staff also should be trained in proper maintenance of patient records. The medical scene in India extends from smaller clinics to large hospitals. Medical record keeping is a specialized area in bigger teaching and corporate hospitals with separate medical records officers handling these issues. However, it is yet to develop into a proper process in the large number of smaller clinics and hospitals that cater to a large section of the people in India. Keywords: Medical records, medical negligence

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METHODS OF RECORD KEEPING
The traditional method of keeping records that is followed in most of the hospitals across India is the manual method involving papers and books. There are serious limitations of manual record keeping including the need for large storage areas and difficulties in the retrieval of records....
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