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Easily accessible medical records may improve patient care

Have you ever asked yourself these questions: Can a lab test result be used as the sole basis for a diagnosis? Was a generally accepted test used to diagnose my illness? Does my diagnosis match my symptoms?  

These are some of the questions that a patient might need to ask when he or she suspects medical negligence. Of course, injuries and death may occur even when a patient is under the care of a competent doctor. However, when a patient's condition fails to improve despite positive expectations, or when unexplained complications or injuries occur, an attorney who focuses on medical malpractice law may be needed to investigate the circumstances.

The starting point for such an investigation might be a patient's medical records. An attorney will want to know whether a health care professional consulted a patient's complete medical history before making a diagnosis. Medical records might include previous test results, medication interactions, complications, allergies, and other conditions that could require an alteration to common treatment protocols.

In New York, a patient typically signs a consent form to allow his or her current provider to request medical records from other hospitals or facilities. If a doctor failed to request that consent, there may an inference of negligence to be drawn. With the help of a medical malpractice attorney, a patient can investigate the circumstances of the care that he or she received. An attorney may also call upon an expert to explain whether certain uninformed actions may have caused injury.

Currently, a statewide project is underway to link patient records in a single computerized database. Although patients would still need to sign a consent form, commentators hope that the centralized database will improve patient care by making records more accessible.

Source: The Buffalo News, "New York State medical database aids doctors, patients," Michael Virtanen, June 1, 2014

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