New Technology in Medical Record Keeping Creates New Jobs, and Perhaps New Challenges

In an interesting article by Stacey Burling, an Inquirer Staff writer, dated April 21, 2011, the author points out some new challenges and potential new jobs, created by the advent of electronic medical records. In the Emergency Room setting, the article states, ER physicians utilizing these new record keeping systems are slowed down so much by the process of actually putting the patient’s information into the computer system, that “scribes,” have been hired by doctors to input the information for them.

Many times the “medical scribes” are younger people paid anywhere from $8-$12 an hour to follow physicians around, take down the information, and input it into the computer. The article touts this job, understandably so, as “hard to beat” for students that have an interest in the medical professions. As part of the article, Ms. Burling interviewed a medical scribe who described her job as getting “exposed to things that you otherwise would never be exposed to.” To the physician, the article continues, “having scribes allows the highest paid people in the room spend more time with the patients” and allows the doctors more flexibility in the manner in which they treat patients.

Ms. Burling’s article notes the explosive growth in this industry. The largest scribe company called “ScribeAmerica” has 800 employees in 21 states, a dramatic increase since 2009. Also, Emergency Medicine Scribe Systems has 600 scribes – 500 more than it had two years ago. Undoubtedly, the numbers of employees in this industry is trending upward and presumably, the scribes offer an important service.

What are the possible pitfalls to such a situation, from both a quality of care perspective and a potential liability scenario? Will medical scribes help or hinder the continued evolution of the electronic medical records platform?

Author: Stuart T. O’Neal

Recently Proposed Tort Reform in Medical Malpractice – H.R. 5

On January 24, 2011, Representative Phil Gingrey (R-GA), also a physician, introduced H.R. 5, a bill designed “To improve patient access to health care services and provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system.”
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Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Consider the Scope of Nursing Facility Liability

Author: Marc L. Penchansky

On May 3, 2011, Appellants’ brief was due in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for the case of Scampone v. Highland Park Care Center, et al. The issue before the Supreme Court was framed as follows: “Whether the Superior Court erred in applying the corporate negligence theory, initially adopted by this Court in Thompson v. Nason Hospital, 591 A.2d 703 (Pa. 1991), to a skilled nursing facility and the healthcare company responsible for its operations.”

In Thompson, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court expanded the potential liability of hospitals by adopting the theory of corporate liability, which is based on the systematic or institutional negligence of the hospital itself rather than the conduct of individual employees or physicians. Specifically, the Thompson Court held that a hospital owes certain direct and non-delegable duties to a patient, which include: (1) a duty to use reasonable care in the maintenance of safe and adequate facilities and equipment, (2) a duty to select and retain only competent physicians, (3) a duty to oversee all persons who practice medicine within its walls as to patient care, and (4) a duty to formulate, adopt and enforce adequate rules and policies to ensure quality care to patients. The basis for the expansion of liability was the hospital’s role as a comprehensive health care provider.
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