What Is eDiscovery in Healthcare? Everything You Should Know

Medical professionals and institutions are vulnerable to frequent litigation, whether for malpractice claims, wrongful ...

Medical professionals and institutions are vulnerable to frequent litigation, whether for malpractice claims, wrongful death proceedings, or other areas of liability. Because of the industry's susceptibility to lawsuits, frivolous and otherwise, hospitals and other healthcare professionals must maintain best practices for file management and comply with eDiscovery requests.

What is eDiscovery in healthcare? It is a similar process to other civil litigation electronic discovery practices. Learn everything you need to know about the process and software.

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What Is eDiscovery in Healthcare?

Discovery is the formal process of sharing information and evidence between two parties involved in a lawsuit. The plaintiff and defendant each have the opportunity to review files and witness lists and to make objections to certain elements or individuals before a trial begins.

The electronic discovery process streamlines the more traditional approach to discovery using paper documentation. Data management software hosts the electronically stored information, making it easier to source, share, and organize it.

An eDiscovery system may house a variety of data, from emails to patient files to images and social media messages. Because of the vast amount of data, most healthcare organizations or related enterprises contract or outsource file retention and organization to cloud-based eDiscovery platforms.

Why Is eDiscovery Important in Healthcare?

eDiscovery in healthcare is essential because it provides a reliable and secure means to share sensitive or private information. Court proceedings are often long and complicated in medical civil cases. An eDiscovery system reduces the duplication of sensitive data and limits access to those who need it and are legally allowed to access it.

Besides the security and efficiency advantages, eDiscovery also reduces the costs and effort associated with the discovery process. Because everything is digital, plaintiffs and defendants can quickly share PDFs and TIFF files with the courts and opposing counsel; there is no need to print out or carry around hundreds of hard copies.

In addition, eDiscovery increases the accuracy of reviews because attorneys no longer need to sift through outdated or duplicate files. With electronic files and professional file management, clients can reduce the amount of repetitiveness in discovery.

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Legal Implications of eDiscovery in Healthcare

Patients have growing concerns about the legal implications of eDiscovery as it relates to healthcare, primarily the retention and privacy of personal medical data. In regards to retention, many healthcare institutions and professionals have a problem with ROT — redundant, obsolete, and trivial data. This problem stems from poor archival design, increasing the costs and complexities of discovery.

ROT is most often an issue with on-site systems, when facilities manage all data on servers located in the facility. In addition, poor on-premise practices can interfere with patient care and transparency, which carry further litigation risks.

Patients and legal professionals also fear the risks to patient privacy and security when using cloud-based eDiscovery platforms. With rising occurrences of data breaches, legal and medical professionals have legitimate concerns about cloud-based security.

In fact, cloud-based eDiscovery platforms often carry robust security features, often beyond those of in-house systems. Still, hospitals and other industry professionals must assess their needs and account for current challenges before adopting new software.

We’ve written more about on-premise versus cloud based systems, take a look here.

Challenges of eDiscovery in Healthcare

As technology advances and medical access becomes more available through telemedicine and online interactions, the challenges facing eDiscovery technology also increase. While discovery depends on efficient patient data tracking, that data constantly evolves and blurs the lines of privacy and legal accessibility.

Working with eDiscovery management systems, especially cloud-based partners, can help hospitals and other professionals stay on top of current trends and compliance issues in the industry. Staying informed is the best way to avoid legal repercussions.

That said, eDiscovery software and applications are useful tools for medical and legal professionals, but do not negate the need for human intervention and assessment. The primary objective of eDiscovery platforms and software is to streamline the legal process, reducing costs and eliminating duplication.

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What Is the eDiscovery Process in Healthcare?

Because healthcare providers and workers are often targets of litigation and government inquiries, it becomes necessary to share information and datasets with legal counsel during the discovery process. The process for eDiscovery in healthcare involves six basic steps:

  1. Data collection: The initial phase of discovery requires collecting all data pertinent to the case. The collection process must preserve the existing metadata and make forensic copies.
  2. Data transfer: If a client is self-collecting files and materials, they can use a drag-and-drop feature on most eDiscovery platforms. That said, most professionals seek help from eDiscovery services to limit any mistakes or processing delays.
  3. Data processing: Once in the hosting platform, the host streamlines your data, making it searchable. It will extract all metadata, identify duplicate data, and index the rest.
  4. Early assessment: Using keyword tools, concept clustering, near-duplicate identification, and email threading, eDiscovery platforms can help reduce the number of documents passed on to review. The filtering can significantly reduce discovery costs.
  5. Document exchange and review: At this stage, human review is necessary but sometimes ineffective. For smaller cases, employee review of each document to determine relevance is OK; however, for significant cases with a substantial number of files, it is best to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to reduce person-hours.
  6. Archive or termination: Finally, with documents shared with opposing counsel and the discovery portion of a case complete, you must decide whether to archive the datasets or delete them from the hosting platform. Termination ensures no one can access the files through the platform, making them more secure.

Best Practices for eDiscovery in Healthcare

Healthcare providers work with electronic medical records and protected health information, meaning organizations operate on a tightrope of sensitive data and robust regulations. The discovery process is one time when patient information is at risk, which means healthcare providers must adopt best practices to protect vulnerable EMRs and PHIs.

The best way to protect vulnerable data is to redact it. The process requires a data audit and periodic reviews. While it is easy to trust technology with almost everything, healthcare files require human review during the discovery process, ensuring patient protection.

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What Is eDiscovery in Healthcare, and How Can Cloudficient Help?

What is eDiscovery in healthcare? These platforms and software manage electronic discovery documents before civil trials. Cloudficient uses next-generation migration technology to streamline the transfer of files into a cloud-based eDiscovery system. Contact Cloudficient to learn more about this migration technology.

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