DC Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Protecting Yourself and Loved Ones from Hazards of Electronic Medical Records (EMR)

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Patient Safety, Public Health

Recent legal issues and security breaches have left consumers and healthcare providers alike questioning the benefits of electronic medical records. Designed to improve accuracy in patient care and eliminate medical errors, EMRs have instead exposed millions of consumers to identity theft and caused significant lapses in medical care due to inaccurate or incomplete recordkeeping.

If your provider uses EMRs, here are some tips to help you ensure your information remains accurate and secure:

  • Maintain your own records. Keep a list of your health issues and any treatments you’ve had or medications you’ve used for review with your doctor, especially new care providers.
  • Ask questions. When something doesn’t sound right, say something. This is your health, after all, so don’t be reticent about voicing your concerns, especially before signing consent forms for medical treatments.
  • Check your records yourself. Ask your provider for a copy of your medical records, and review them for errors. You may be able to check these records online for free, or you may be charged a fee for a hard copy.
  • Keep everyone updated. If you have a change in medication, undergo a procedure or have tests performed, make sure all your doctors — and not just the doctor who prescribed the medicine or test — know about any changes and new data.
  • Check the Department of Health and Human Services website for a list of breaches affecting 500 or more people to see whether you may have been affected.

Being more proactive about your health records is important for your care and your security, and it can also make you a more educated patient who’s better prepared to ask important questions that could have a lasting impact on your health.

Contact qualified D.C. medical malpractice attorneys for insight into your potential case.

 

Your Electronic Medical Records (EMR): How Safe Are They?

Posted in Uncategorized

Electronic medical records are supposed to make healthcare more personalized, more convenient and more effective, but recent events show they may pose some very serious risks to patients, sometimes resulting in inaccurate diagnoses that could lead to poor outcomes and even death. Some errors have been so serious that they’ve led to malpractice suits that have settled for millions of dollars.

Errors occur for different reasons: First, matching records to the right patient can be problematic, even with a name and birthdate, since databases can be enormous. Many records are incomplete, including records only from certain providers, but leaving important gaps in care provided by healthcare providers that haven’t “gone digital.”

One of the most critical opportunities for error is in data entry. When systems are poorly designed or healthcare personnel are inadequately trained, serious errors can occur that can have a direct impact on the care you receive.

Incomplete records aren’t the only concern: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 1,000 health record data breaches have occurred since 2009, potentially exposing millions of consumers’ data to identity thieves.

Why are hackers so interested in medical records? Simple: Most records contain names, addresses, birthdates, social security numbers and more – a rich treasure trove of information that can be sold for top dollar. And research indicates that medical facilities and the healthcare industry at large are far behind when it comes to using robust security measures to protect your sensitive information.

Despite these inherent risks, electronic medical records aren’t going to go away; in fact, their use likely will become much more widespread and pervasive. In our next blog, learn what you can do to protect yourself.

Our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help you and your family understand your potential options to seek compensation. Call us today for a free consultation.

Here’s a quick guide to What Patients Need to Know about Electronic Medical Records.

May is National Physical Fitness and Sport Month

Posted in Men's Health Issues, Women's Health Issues

According to the CDC, more than a third of adults in the U.S. are obese and another third are overweight; obesity also affects about 18 percent of kids from age 6 to 19, and an amazing 12 percent of kids aged just two to five years. Obesity has been associated with a whole host of serious medical issues, including type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, infertility, liver disease and even cancer.

The relationship between exercise and body weight control is more subtle than most people realize, however. For instance, the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine recently admitted that “It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time, compared with those who have low energy expenditures. So far, data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.”

That said, for kids, being physically active important for building healthy bones and muscles, and it can also help them perform better in school.

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and that means it’s the ideal time to make sure you’re getting the activity you need to thrive. Before you jump into an activity that’s unfamiliar to you, there are a few important steps you should take to avoid sports injuries that can keep you sidelined for a long time:

  • Have a physical to make sure your body is up to the activity you’re planning, especially if you’ve been leading a relatively sedentary lifestyle.
  • Always warm up before exercising to avoid straining your muscles. Walking can be a good way to get your muscles ready for action.
  • Stay hydrated. Even if it’s cool outside or you don’t work up a “big sweat,” your muscles still need plenty of fluid to stay flexible.
  • Above all, start slowly and work up to higher levels of endurance to avoid strains and sprains.

Physical activity is good for your body and your brain. Make May the month you make a commitment to being more active and working toward better overall health.

What if you get hurt playing sports and need a hospital stay? See 10 Tips Patients Can Do to Make Your Hospital Stay Safer for insight.

Tips for Caring for Your Sick or Elderly Parent

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Nursing Home Negligence

Mother’s Day makes us all a little more conscious of the care and sacrifice our moms made while we were young. Today, many adult children find their roles reversed — they now must provide care and assistance for their ailing or elderly moms.

Caring for an elderly parent is a common activity for many adult kids. In fact, polling company Gallup says more than 70 percent of adults are caring for an elderly parent, most of whom are 75 years of age or older. Many of those caregivers are also holding down jobs, a combination that can become stressful and isolating over time. If you’re one of those adult children tasked with providing care for your elderly mom or dad, here are four important tips to help you cope:

  • Talk to your employer. Letting your employer know about your obligations helps him or her understand why you may need a day off or call in late on occasion. By being upfront about your needs and constraints, you can hopefully avoid serious repercussions for your career.
  • Find out about family leave. If your parent is especially ill, ask about paid leave options that could allow you to take some time off to provide care without straining your finances or risking your position.
  • Look into daycare and in-home care options. Even if you provide most of your parent’s care, there are times when you could use a helping hand or take a break. Medicare Parts A and B offer provisions for some types of home care; they can also provide limited coverage for medically-required adult daycare. You may also be able to tap community resources for help.
  • Get support. Connecting with other people in your situation can be a powerful tool in helping you cope and avoiding stress and depression. To find a support group near you, contact your area office on aging, or visit the Eldercare Locator website, a service of the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Do you suspect that your mother or some other relative was hurt by bad care? Our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys provide free consultations for injury victims and their families.

Suspect that your mother or father (or other loved one) hasn’t been treated fairly? Read: DC Nursing Homes: How to Report Abuse or Neglect.

Warning: Over-Dependence on Health Apps Can Lead to Misdiagnosis

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Men's Health Issues, Patient Safety, Public Health, Women's Health Issues

Just about everybody loves the convenience of apps, and when it comes to managing health and wellness, there are plenty of resources from which to choose. But recently, concerns have begun to be raised by medical professionals regarding the safe use of these apps and their significant potential for misdiagnosis, which may lead to patients misinterpreting important symptoms and delaying medical care.

Not all medical apps are “bad,” but it’s important to follow safety guidelines when using them, like these five simple tips:

  • First, remember – no app or website should be a substitute for a doctor’s advice. If you have signs or symptoms that indicate you might be at risk for a medical issue, schedule an exam with your doctor.
  • If an app does offer medical advice beyond recommending seeing a doctor, do not use it.
  • Use the information from an app to develop a list of questions for your doctor; tell the doctor what you’ve found on the app, and ask for his or her professional opinion on the information. Used this way, apps can provide a good jumping-off point for important health-related dialogue.
  • Record your symptoms and questions on your own without even using an app. Create a written list that you can take to your appointment and share with your doctor. Many patients feel rushed or nervous visiting the doctor, and preparing a list ahead of time can ensure all your questions are answered.
  • Use the same advice for fitness-related apps. See your doctor to ensure you’re fit enough for the activity you’re considering, and visit with a personal trainer at least initially to make sure you’re doing exercises correctly.

Provision Passed by House Protects Healthcare Providers

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Men's Health Issues, Patient Safety, Women's Health Issues

Legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives includes a provision that will effectively protect doctors and other healthcare workers against medical malpractice lawsuits, according to the New York Times.

The primary purpose of the bill is to provide a mechanism by which the government can measure the quality of care provided by doctors, including a system by which a doctor’s performance is rated on a scale from zero to 100. Tucked into the bill, however, is a provision that prohibits the quality-of-care standards used in federal health programs from being used in medical malpractice cases. In other words, those performance ratings cannot be used as evidence of a doctor’s negligence for purposes of a malpractice lawsuit.

The Plaintiff in a medical malpractice case must prove that the Defendant’s care of the patient fell below the “standard of care.” The “standard of care” refers to the level and type of care that a reasonably competent and skilled health care professional, with a similar background and in the same medical community, would have provided under the same or similar circumstances. Typically, expert testimony is used to prove a Defendant’s treatment of a patient fell below the standard of care and was, therefore, negligent.

With the proliferation of quality metrics now required by various laws, including the Affordable Care Act, Plaintiffs may have another way to prove negligence in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The fact that a provider’s care violated state or federal safety standards, or that the provider’s performance was ranked below average, could be powerful evidence in the hands of a jury in a medical malpractice trial; however, if this House bill passes in its current form, that evidence will never make it to trial.

The Senate will take up the bill, which President Obama has endorsed, when it returns on April 13th.

If you need smart insight into a potential case, please get in touch with our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys for a consultation.

For more coverage of relevant medical laws, please see: Understanding the Implications of a Possible Supreme Court Ruling Against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

Alarming Statistics on Medical and Obstetrical Errors

Posted in Birth Injury, Medical Malpractice, Patient Safety

We all turn to doctors and other healthcare providers to treat injuries and illnesses; however, sometimes a doctor actually causes harm. In fact, medical errors occur far more often than most people realize. Obstetrical errors, in particular, impact a surprisingly large number of woman and newborns each year. Given the often-tragic results of obstetrical errors, it should come as no surprise that those errors ultimately account for a substantial proportion of the largest malpractice liability awards.

Consider the following facts and figures relating to obstetrical errors:

• More than 157,000 potentially avoidable injuries to mothers and newborns occurred during childbirth in just a single year, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

• Cesareans now make up almost one-third of all births, a sharp spike from two decades ago, when the rate was around 20 percent.

• A study published in Health Affairs found that rates vary dramatically among hospitals, from 7 percent to 70 percent and 2.4 percent to 36 percent among a lower-risk subgroup.

• Unexpected medical complications in deliveries were two to five times more likely in low-performing hospitals than in high-performing hospitals.

The good news is that when a focused effort is made to improve care and avoid medical errors the results can be dramatic. Consider the following examples as cited in a recent article in The Hill:

• Hospital Corporation of America reduced maternal fatalities from pulmonary embolism by 87 percent.

• New York Presbyterian Hospital registered brain injuries from oxygen deprivation to newborns at a rate 98 percent below the national average.

• Ascension Health, the nation’s largest Catholic hospital network, reduced incidence of brain trauma at four pilot sites by 85 percent.

• Premier Inc. health network reduced birth trauma among full-term newborns by 74 percent.

Efforts aimed at reducing the number of obstetrical errors are certainly commendable; however, for the victim of a medical error, a single error can be life-altering. Until medical errors are eliminated completely, victims and their families will continue to suffer physically, emotionally, and financially. Making matters worse, many states have enacted damage “caps” that limit the amount of compensation a victim can be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit, regardless of the extent of the harm suffered.

As any victim will tell you, more effort should be spent on preventing medical errors and improving patient care and less effort wasted on stripping victims of their rights.

Our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help you and your family understand your potential options to seek compensation, if you’ve been victimized by a medical error.

Learn more about how to stay safe at the hospital here: 10 Tips Patients Can Do to Make Your Hospital Stay Safer

Understanding the Implications of a Possible Supreme Court Ruling Against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

Posted in Patient Safety

This summer, the Supreme Court will hand down a decision in King v. Burwell that could have profound ramifications for the future of the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare. If the Supreme Court decides to rules against the Obama Administration, defenders of the President’s plan worry that the results could be catastrophic for adults and children alike.

According to a recent Washington Post blog, possible implications of a ruling against the Obama Administration in this case include:

• A loss of insurance coverage for millions of Americans.
• A loss of coverage for 730,000 children whose parents would no longer receive subsidies from the federal government.
• A loss of coverage for 1.1 million children if Congress fails to provide more money to Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
• A loss of coverage for up to 2 million children if lawmakers also allow states to tighten income guidelines on Medicaid programs.

The picture painted above represents the worst case scenario for the outcome of this case. For example, even if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare, Congress could still decide to continue to provide increased funding for CHIP programs, which would decrease the number of uninsured children significantly. Nonetheless, the results of the Supreme Court’s ruling will undoubtedly have an effect on Congress’ decision-making process.

Since nobody can accurately predict what will happen with Obamacare in the coming year, it is important to make the most out of your insurance coverage. If you or a member of your family is suffering from an injury or illness, be sure to:

• Take advantage of preventative care by scheduling your appointments as soon as possible.
• See your doctor now if you have a low deductible and you need medical care for an injury or illness.
• Schedule any necessary testing or treatment at your earliest convenience.

When choosing medical providers, remember to choose reputable doctors with solid histories of providing quality care. Otherwise, you may end up misdiagnosed: Could 12 Million People Be Really Misdiagnosed Every Single Year?

National Nutrition Month is Overshadowed by Uncertain, Controversial Guidelines

Posted in Men's Health Issues, Women's Health Issues

March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign managed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The goal of this campaign is to highlight the important of making smart, informed nutritional decisions in order to promote a healthier lifestyle. However, making the right choices can be difficult when the information available to the public is contradictory or uncertain.
According to a recent op-ed by Nina Teicholz of the New York Times, new studies have debunked established nutrition guidelines a number of times in recent history. For example, Americans have been avoiding fat and cholesterol for years based on information indicating that consuming too much of either of these compounds would be dangerous to their health. However, the government has now repealed both of these guidelines after reports showed their original assumptions to be false.
Even the guidelines that remain in place have faced challenges. The government’s current recommendations maintain that saturated fats are linked to heart disease, in spite of several recent contradictions. Likewise, an influential Institute of Medicine study has also contradicted the government’s call to reduce salt intake.
To establish healthy eating habits in the face of contradictory advice:

• Take governmental nutrition recommendations in context, work with your doctor, and do your own research. Scrutinize the research studies that led to recommendations before accepting them as valid.
• Consider adopting the same nutritional principles that worked for previous generations: significant amounts of real, whole foods (including natural fat and protein and vegetables) with limited sugar and refined grains.

Interested in the most recent guideline changes? They indicate that Americans are eating too much sugar: New Dietary Guidelines Call for a Drastic Reduction in Sugar Intake – Cholesterol and Fat Limits Raised.

World Health Organization Data: 1.1 Billion People at Risk for Hearing Loss

Posted in Community Service, Public Health

Picture of Salvatore J. Zambri

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner

Around the world, 360 million people have moderate to profound hearing loss. Half of these cases of hearing loss are estimated to be avoidable. According to a recently-released news report from the World Health Organization (WHO), “some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events.”  Physical and mental health, education and employment are all significantly impacted by hearing loss. Studies from middle- and high-income countries were analyzed by WHO indicated that among teens and young adults aged 12-35, nearly 50% are exposed to unsafe sound levels from personal audio devices and almost 40% are exposed to potentially damaging sound levels at entertainment venues.

As noted by Dr. Etienne Krug, WHO Director for the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, “As they go about their daily lives doing what they enjoy, more and more young people are placing themselves at risk of hearing loss. They should be aware that once you lose your hearing, it won’t come back. Taking simple preventive actions will allow people to continue to enjoy themselves without putting their hearing at risk.”

Recommendations by WHO experts say that the highest permissible level of noise exposure at work is 85 dB up to eight hours each day. Because nightclubs, bars and sporting events typically have noise levels of 100 dB – a level that is safe for only about 15 minutes. Suggestions for teens and young adults for hearing protection include:

  • Keeping volume down on personal audio devices,
  • Wearing earplugs when visiting noisy venues,
  • Using carefully-fitted, noise-cancelling earphones or headphones,
  • Limiting time spent in noisy activities by taking short listening breaks,
  • Restricting daily use of personal audio devices to less than an hour,
  • Using smartphone apps to monitor safe listening levels,
  • Heeding warning signs of hearing loss and getting regular hearing check-ups.

In addition to personal efforts to protect hearing better, other useful initiatives include:

  • Developing and enforcing strict legislation on recreational noise,
  • Raising awareness of risks of hearing loss with public information campaigns,
  • Educating young people about safe listening,
  • Managing entertainment venues by using sound limiters, offering ear plugs and “chill out” rooms,
  • Designing personal audio devices with safety features,
  • Displaying information about safe listening on products and packaging.

“To mark International Ear Care Day, celebrated each year on March 3rd, WHO is launching the “Make Listening Safe” initiative to draw attention to the dangers of unsafe listening and promote safer practices. In collaboration with partners worldwide, WHO will alert young people and their families about the risks of noise-induced hearing loss and advocate towards governments for greater attention to this issue as part of their broader efforts to prevent hearing loss generally.”

About the author:

Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him “Trial Lawyer of the Year”.  Super Lawyers recently named him among the “Top Ten” lawyers in the Metro Area (out of more than 80,000 attorneys). He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a “Big Gun” and among the “top 100″ lawyers in the entire metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as “one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers” who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners.  His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA.  Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of “The Best Lawyers in America” by Best Lawyers (2014 edition) and has been repeatedly named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyer magazine (2014) — national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.

If you have any questions about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at szambri@reganfirm.com or call him at 202-822-1899.