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Is patient review of medical records a malpractice defense?

A new trend in American health care, which may become prevalent in Louisiana as well as across the country, is for health care providers to give patients direct access to their records.

The concept, which has been described as “shared accountability,” claims multiple benefits to both medical professionals and patients. For the former, it is billed as a way to reduce the risk of medical malpractice claims by providing an additional review of health record accuracy by the patients themselves. For the latter, it is supposedly a way to help catch errors in things like drug prescriptions.

If you believe that you or a family member has suffered injury as a result of a medical mistake, consulting with an attorney may become even more advisable if the health care provider begins to use terms like “shared accountability” in communications with you.

Theoretically, shared accountability seems like a positive development, and it plays on the desire for people in general, and hospital and doctor patients in particular, to feel like they are exercising a greater degree of control over the judgment of the medical professionals they depend on when it comes to important decisions.

There is no denying that closer scrutiny is desirable when it comes to maintaining the accuracy of patient records. Medication prescriptions, for example, can contain errors on as many as 95 percent of patient records. But whether giving patients direct access to their own records is really meant mainly for their benefit, or for that of the medical profession, remains open to question.

Health care providers are forthright in acknowledging that reducing medical malpractice claims is a consideration, if not the main motivator, in getting patients involved with their own records.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Health-care providers want patients to read medical records, spot errors," Laura Landro, June 9, 2014

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