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The Importance of eDiscovery in Healthcare
Healthcare services frequently come under fire in the United States. One study by Johns Hopkins named medical errors a ...
Healthcare services frequently come under fire in the United States. One study by Johns Hopkins named medical errors a leading cause of death in the country. Women and BIPOC have also called out healthcare facilities for the tendency of providers to overlook their symptoms and allow conditions to go untreated for several years. These and several other factors compound to create an environment with a high risk of litigation and the need to comply with eDiscovery requests.
- eDiscovery refers to the process of sourcing, organizing and sharing electronically stored information in response to a request for production in a legal case. This can include data such as emails, text messages, images, social media posts, and patient files.
- In healthcare cases, eDiscovery requests can be received by various organizations such as insurance companies, hospitals, private practitioners, and medical billing and coding companies.
- If an organization fails to comply with an eDiscovery request, they may face severe consequences such as paying attorney fees, fines, or even dismissal of the case, and in some cases may be considered contempt of court.
- To comply with eDiscovery requests, healthcare organizations should have a plan in place that includes inventorying and organizing electronic data, creating a document retention policy, and designating a point person (or team) to handle requests.
What Is eDiscovery?
Electronic discovery is the process of sourcing, organizing and sharing electronically stored information in response to a request for production in a legal case. The data can take several forms, such as emails, text messages, images, social media posts and patient files.
eDiscovery is a crucial component of the modern litigation process. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were amended in 2006 to require that parties preserve electronically stored information that could be relevant to a case.
Who Can Receive eDiscovery Requests in Healthcare Cases?
Healthcare providers most often come to mind, but any organization could face a request for electronic documents. Consider the following examples.
A health insurance company could receive a request to produce records of claims filed by a patient. These records could support allegations of negligence or refute them. Insurance companies commonly receive these requests during bad faith insurance claims.
A hospital could receive a request to produce records related to a specific doctor, nurse or patient. These records most often pertain to allegations of medical errors or negligence. Sometimes they relate to the performance record of a particular past or present worker.
A private practitioner could receive a request to produce records related to a specific patient. These records could support or negate allegations of negligence or malpractice. Insurance companies could also bring cases against practitioners for prescribing unnecessary procedures.
Medical Billing and Coding Company
A company that provides medical billing and coding services could receive requests for records for a patient, covering a specific period, related to a particular insurance provider or from a specific worker. These records could support or negate allegations of fraud or overbilling.
What Are the Consequences of Not Producing eDiscovery?
Entities can face severe consequences for not complying with an electronic discovery request. The court can sanction a party that does not produce the requested information. The sanctions can take several forms:
- The court could order the party to pay the other side's attorney fees.
- The court could order the party to pay a fine.
- The court could dismiss the case entirely.
In some cases, failing to comply with an eDiscovery request can also be considered contempt of court. This is a severe offense that can result in jail time. It is almost always in the best interest of all parties involved to cooperate with the court. Note that the more prolonged litigation cases are, the higher the final costs.
How Can Healthcare Organizations Comply With eDiscovery?
The best way to comply with electronic discovery requests is to have a plan long before receiving a request. This plan should include the following considerations.
Know What You Have
The first step is to inventory all of your electronic data. This includes data stored on computers, servers, smartphones and other devices. It also contains data stored in the cloud. You should know where this data is located and who has access to it.
Organize Your Data
Once you know what you have, you need to organize it. This will make it easier to find relevant data for a particular case. One way to do this is to create a document retention policy. This policy should specify how long to retain different data types and where to store them.
Assign an eDiscovery Manager
Designate a point person to handle all requests. This person should have the authority to decide on which information to produce. He or she should also be familiar with the rules and procedures for electronic discovery.
Comply With Regulations
Several regulations apply to healthcare organizations, such as HIPAA and HITECH. These regulations impose restrictions on the use and disclosure of protected health information. Be sure to review these regulations before creating your document retention policy.
Several software applications can help you manage and organize your data. These applications can also help you search for relevant information. For example, Microsoft offers Purview eDiscovery solutions. The features vary based on the Microsoft Office 365 subscription your business holds.
Provide Adequate Training
Train all employees on the Importance of preserving electronically stored information. Employees should know what types of information could be relevant to a legal case. They should also know how to store this information so it can be easily found and produced.
Get Help From an Attorney
If you are unsure how to comply with electronic discovery requests, seek help from an attorney. An attorney can help you create a document retention policy that complies with all applicable laws and regulations. An attorney can also help you prepare a strong defense.
What Role Does Cloud Migration Play in eDiscovery?
Electronic discovery is an integral part of the modern litigation process. Healthcare organizations must ensure that they can comply with these requests. This may require digitizing large volumes of data and finding the proper storage solutions. Physical storage is unlikely to meet its needs.
Consequently, more healthcare providers are migrating to the cloud. Will yours? Cloud migration provides access to the best eDiscovery tools and storage options. Contact Cloudficient to learn more.
With unmatched next generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast and seamless.