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Ask the Medical Expert: Electronic Medical Records, Medical Malpractice, and More

August 2, 2016


The following interview is with a board-certified Internal Medicine doctor who has been involved in the medical-legal arena for the last 15 years.  He has been an actively practicing physician for the last 30 years.

How has the use of Electronic Medical Records affected your review process, and what can an attorney do to help you maximize your evaluation of a potential case?

Most of the records now come on a disk or a USB drive, so it saves a lot of space. Most attorneys do not include a table of contents, so I spend at least an hour just searching for what information I need.

When conducting your review, do you prefer to receive a hard copy or electronic medical records? What is the advantage of your preferred format?

PDF files are great.  They can be on any media, or if the attorney wants to use Dropbox that works as well.

Does a detailed summary, or synopsis, of the case help you control the time you require to review a file when determining the initial merits of a case, or do you prefer to reach conclusions based on a brief overview, no matter the time required?

It usually saves time if I know what I am looking for.  However, this has worked against me in depositions. The opposing counsel usually asks that question, and if I am told what I am looking for, some use that as a bias.

What do you find is the biggest barrier you face when reviewing medical records and reporting your findings to an attorney?

I have no difficulties contacting attorneys.

When you have rendered a favorable opinion to an attorney, what has your experience been regarding the follow-up and progress of the case?

I am usually kept informed as to the status of the case.

How important is it for you to meet face-to-face with an attorney prior to your deposition, and what can an attorney do to help get you through this, sometimes, unpleasant process in a professional and courteous fashion?

A face-to-face meeting with the attorney is not important to me.  What is important is that the attorney speak with me prior to any testimony, and give me a good idea what the opposing counsel will do. On a few occasions, my testimony did not go well and it is usually when I work with a weak, uninterested lawyer.

Is it normal for you to receive payment prior to the deposition, and if not, how long does it normally take for you to get paid by the other side, once your deposition has been completed? Does the attorney help you receive payment from the other side if there is a problem?

I usually ask for a three hour retainer.  The attorneys are usually helpful with obtaining payment from opposing counsel.

When a deposition and/or trial is postponed, do you normally receive enough advanced notice to schedule office hours so that you do not lose a day of billable time? If not, what has your experience been when requiring payment from an attorney for lost time?

It varies.  For trial, I receive payment 30 days in advance and will refund part of the payment if a cancellation occurs except if it is one week prior to trial.  This is because I had to clear my schedule for that day and thus I don’t have any patients to see.

When you have testified in trial, has the attorney properly prepared you with the questions you might face from the opposition, and have you been given enough time to review case material, including depositions, so that you have great knowledge of the facts to give credible and reputable testimony?

Most do.  I recall one attorney last year that I had to call and ask that he meet with me at the hotel the night before the trial.  He showed up late and really did not prepare me well.  As to be expected, my testimony did come off well at trial.  He was passive at the trial and didn’t object to opposing counsels questioning.  This has been a rare occurrence.  I find that most attorneys are interested in the case and want to win.

Would you please explain what it is like to be an expert in a medical malpractice case, and what an attorney can help you with so that the whole process runs as smoothly as possible?

I find it interesting from an academic standpoint being a medical expert for either side.  I do some defense work as well.  I find that most plaintiff lawyers are more democrats and most defense attorney’s republicans.  They just have different points of view.  I find that the successful attorneys know how to get the best from their experts.  It is different for each lawyer and expert since the people are different.  I need to be treated with respect, have my time valued, and my way of expressing myself appreciated.