How Changing Practices Benefit Injured Patients in 2010
Patients receiving healthcare through Kaiser Permanente have likely seen many changes in Kaiser's practices over the past decade. Kaiser med mal lawyers say that while some of those changes benefit patients, others benefit patients who have been injured. Our legal expert explains.
California Attorney J. Niley Dorit
J. Niley Dorit, a California medical malpractice attorney, says that he's personally seen many changes in Kaiser's practices over the many years that his firm has been representing patients injured in the Kaiser system. He told us that digital computerized medical records, telephone triage and better communication are some of those changes and explained how they not only benefit Kaiser patients, but may also benefit Kaiser Permanente medical and hospital malpractice victims as well:
- Digital computerized medical records. Kaiser has changed – along with a lot of other healthcare providers – in that they’re going to digital computerized medical records, which during this transition period has been a little bit rocky. In the long run, better record keeping may help patients in general and also those injured in the Kaiser system.
- Telephone triage. Kaiser is also using more telephone advice nurse capabilities to manage people that are calling in. I believe they have two main call centers in northern California and people can actually speak to a nurse on the telephone and get some information about whether there’s things that they can and should do at home, whether they need to come in for an appointment that day, go to the emergency room or schedule an appointment with a doctor at some future date. So, it’s kind of a triage system on the telephone. I think Kaiser is moving more towards that.
Unfortunately, I've seen some serious cases where the Kaiser nurse either gave incorrect advice or failed to communicate acute situations that needed to be addressed. Kaiser is ultimately responsible for all of those errors.
- Better communication. One other thing that I’ve noticed with Kaiser is that there is a lot more communication by e-mail between the doctors and the patients. That’s a relatively new development, so now when we review cases, e-mail exchanges are often just as important as what we’re seeing printed in the computerized medical records.
For example, we had a case involving a brain injury in a patient who had meningitis – the hallmark of which is a stiff neck. Although the stiff neck may not have been noted or reported by the doctor, the patient’s spouse was positive that the stiff neck was present. So, if there’s an e-mail saying 'I'd like my husband to come in because he's got a high fever, his neck is stiff and his symptoms are persisting,' even if that's not in the medical records, it's in an e-mail. It corroborates what was going on with the patient and we can, and do, use that in the litigation of these claims. They can be very, very valuable information. I’m sure everybody has had a situation where they said that they told the doctor something, but he or she was busy and forgot it or didn’t write it down or missed it. If it’s in an e-mail, then there’s a record of it. That can be really, really helpful to us.