Know Why Medical Documentation Is the Need of the Hour

by | Oct 20, 2021 | Disability, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Premises Liability, Product Liability, Workers Compensation | 1 comment

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Here is a riddle for you. I am not your parent or guardian. I am not your caregiver. But I have all the details about your health. I travel with you throughout your life. Who am I? Can you figure out the answer? The medical record is the answer. Medical documentation or medical record documentation is crucial for information sharing between doctors, nurses, and staff. It is pivotal for health care to give a standard of care to the patients. We will be discussing more about medical documentation and its importance in this blog.

Medical Documentation

Medical documentation is the methodology that healthcare workers use to keep track of a patient’s healthcare status. It demonstrates to others that the healthcare professional particularly aware of what he is doing to take care of his patients. Medical documentation includes records of the patient’s medical history, including vaccination dates, medications, diagnoses, surgeries, recommended treatments, x-ray results, ECG reports, scan reports, past therapy, lab test results, and allergies. It also helps to improve the quality of healthcare services provided to the patients.

Importance of Medical Documentation

Without sufficient documentation, it is hard to plan a treatment path. The clear and understandable documentation will be helpful for the future physician to continue timely progress and the best possible treatment without any hindrance. It helps to assist the patients’ subsequent treatment.

For avoiding litigation and complaints, medical documentation is a powerful weapon. It lowers the chances of treatment errors and increases the probabilities of a favorable outcome. An unbiased medical documentation allows the treatment team to communicate with each other, as well as to approach the patient with care. Documentation helps not only for the standard of care but also helps to identify any gaps in the treatment strategies and to improve the quality of care.

Healthcare professionals must record every detail about the patient. Let’s have a look at a case that reflects the importance of medical documentation. A patient visited the physician for chest pain. The doctor treated him with the standard of care. On his tenth visit, the doctor suggested the client to meet a cardiologist. The patient refused his recommendation and stated some reasons for that. In the medical record, the physician failed to document that the patient refused to meet the cardiologist. Twenty days after his last appointment with the doctor, the patient died due to heart valve disease. His wife filed lawsuit against the physician. The physician in this case had to settle the amount at court. Now you would have understood how critical medical documentation is.

Medical Record Management

A patient record must be carefully saved, safeguarded, and maintained from the moment it is created. Medical professionals have the responsibility to protect and maintain medical records with security. To manage medical records successfully, an organization must define some procedures and policies to maintain data security. They should conduct record management programs in the organization to give awareness to the professionals. Training should be provided to the employees periodically to avoid mismanaging records. The professionals must have the knowledge to handle it. A recent study says that more than 50 percent of careless employees are the reason for security issues. So the professionals working with the patient record should be trained well. Keeping indexing system covers will be helpful to handle the medical charts from creation to destruction.

Paper records should be kept in a secure room with limited access to increase data security. As a result of rapid technology development, more than 95 percent of hospitals use electronic medical records (EMR) for easy maintenance. According to the ONC survey in 2016, more than 96 percent of hospitals use electronic health records (EHR). It has the advantage over paper records. Medical records have a retention timeline. After the timeline, it should be destroyed. Paper records should be shredded and burned, and electronic medical records should be cleared using overwriting software.

Why Should You Keep an Accurate Medical Record?

The patients may not always visit the same physician every time for treatment. If the medical record is high quality and accurate, all the physicians can follow it and provide the proper medicine. To retain an accurate medical chart, it should contain details of the patient’s information, for example, date of admission, name of the patient, demographics, and date of birth. Then the advice and information given by professions should be meticulously recorded. Medical history, recommendations, consent forms, undergone surgeries, lab reports, details of any drugs prescribed, notes from mobile conversations should be mentioned.

An accurate medical record is crucial for safe and effective health care. It helps to communicate with other professionals to identify the patient’s status. The General Medical Council recommends that everything should be recorded in the medical record at the moment of the patient visit or as soon as possible subsequently. Following this recommendation helps the professionals to keep accurate medical records and provide the standard of care. Keep in mind that the patient has the right to access their medical chart. The reliable medical chart protects you against the settlement at court when the clients request a medical record, narrative medical record, or medical record review for their personal injury claim or other purposes.

Electronic Medical Records (EMR)

Electronic medical records (EMR) are the digital version of paper records. EMR includes patient health history or status. EMR is used to improve the standard of care and reduce medical errors. It contains the medical history of the clients, including vaccinations, drugs, diagnoses, surgeries, allergies, lab results, and recommended treatments.

Advantages of EMR

  • EMR increases the efficiency and quality of the medical documentation.
  • Handwriting or transcription errors can be reduced.
  • EMR is easy to read and organize compared to the paper medical record.
  • The physicians can access patients’ data from anywhere with an internet connection. So it’s very flexible to use in any location.
  • It reduces errors in medical documentation.
  • EMR is more convenient to use

 Disadvantages of EMR

  • All information about the patient could be lost if a technical issue occurs and EMR software doesn’t have the backed-up data.
  • Power outages or no internet connection affect patient care.
  • The time needed to provide EMR training is more.
  • High cost

Electronic Health Records (EHR)

EHR is a digital record of patient health history. It is used to store and share patient data. It helps to improve the accuracy of medical documentation. The patient can access their health record. EHR contains all the information which includes in electronic medical records and much more. It consists of the previous treatment, surgeries, and all the information about the patient. All the professionals from health care can access the medical health records since it travels out of the practice. It contains the medical history of the clients, including Allergies, immunizations, drugs, diagnosis, procedures, and recommended treatments. It also contains patients’ demographic information, insurance information, etc.

Advantages of EHR

  • Provide accurate information about the patient
  • Patient and professional’s interaction and communication will be improved
  • It increases patient safety and decreases medical errors.
  • Patients can access their healthcare information in the EHR system
  • Less paperwork and fewer storage issues

Disadvantages of EHR

  • It is significant to update all the details about the patient after every consultation. If you fail to do so, the physicians who refer you the next time don’t get conventional information.
  • Security issues of the patient data is another disadvantage of the electronic health record
  • Computer failure or power shortage can make the information inaccessible.
  • It takes more time to provide training to employees.
  • Start-up costs are tremendous

Retention Time in Medical Records

Retention time defines that how much period the physicians or hospitals should keep the medical records. Federal law mandates that the professionals must keep the medical records minimum of 5 years to a maximum of 10 years from the last service of the patient. After the retention time, the hospital can destroy the records. The medical record retention period may differ state by state, and also it varies according to the patient’s age.

In Arizona, the retention period to maintain records for an adult is six years and minors, six years after the last treatment from the provider or until the patient reaches 21, which is longer. In Arizona, both the hospitals and professionals have the same retention period to maintain the medical records documentation.

In Connecticut, the physicians must keep it for seven years from the last date of discharge, or three years after the death of the patient, and the hospitals must keep it for ten years from clients discharged.

In Columbia, the doctors must keep an adult’s record for three years after the last meeting with the doctor and for the minor patient, three years after the final visit or three years after the patient reaches 18. The hospital must keep ten years following the date of discharge.

Can we Request Medical Records?

According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), patients have the authority to request medical records. If you are a guardian, parent, caregiver, or advocate and has acquired the patient’s written approval, you can request a medical chart on behalf of the patient. Under the law, third parties may also request medical records if they receive a signed authorization form from a patient, whether knowingly or innocently.

How to Request a Medical Record?

As a patient, you may need to get medical records for various reasons. When you move from one place to another, you can show it to your new doctor for your future care. Having your medical records on hand will assist you in spotting errors and saving your life. The requisition process is not easy if we don’t know the procedure to apply. Knowing the procedure may ease the process. The steps to be followed are to request a medical record.

Medical Record Release Form 

 Medical record release form contains the details including information of the patient, date of services, hospital details, care providers, information to be released, the purpose of release, etc. An increasing number of medical facilities are making their authorization forms available online so that the patients can fill out the form on time. However, patients aren’t allowed to see some kinds of records. For example, psychotherapy notes are protected from demands.

According to HIPAA, providers have no more than 30 days to respond. After applying, one should wait between 30 to 60 days. In some states, they can receive within 30 days, however, some state regulations allow for a shorter time. It varies by state.

Select The Required Part

The authorization form includes the selection of the required part. So, it is significant to mention the required details. The medical record contains more than 50 pages, so being selected is very important.

Service Cost

The physician can receive a reasonable amount for a copy of the medical chart. Service costs vary by state. In Arizona, professionals can get a reasonable fee for a copy. In Arkansas, the clients must pay $15 for processing charge, $0.50 per page, for copy fees of the first 25 pages, copy fees for additional pages is $0.25/page. If patients request a narrative medical record or medical record review, they must pay some extra cost.


After receiving the medical record, if you find any error, you can request a correction. You should have them fixed right once so that your future care is not affected.

Medical Documentation and Medical Record Review

Medical records review includes acquiring and assessing a person’s medical records, which may include hospitalization records, medical history reports, lab findings etc. Lawyers need the medical record to handle cases like personal injury or medical malpractice claims etc.

Attorneys require to acquire the details of a particular part from the medical record that is related with the subject case. Attorneys don’t get enough time to do medical reviews. So they submit patients’ medical reports to medical record review companies to review what they need for their claim.

Tips to Avoid Errors in medical Documentation

The following tips will be helpful to avoid errors and confusions in medical documentation procedure.

  • Avoid abbreviations and shorthands
  • Don’t forget to write the date and sign your notes
  • Avoid unnecessary comments
  • Medical documentation should be done daily basis
  • Use a good pen if you want to note anything by hand.


Medical documentation is vital for both health care and patient care, as we’ve seen throughout this blog. A quality medical chart is the best defense against any lawsuit. So it’s the healthcare obligation to keep the record safe. With advancements in technology, we have the facility of electronic medical records and electronic health records to increase the accuracy of medical documentation. Even though they have some drawbacks, it is better than paper medical records to maintain the efficiency of medical documentation.

1 Comment

  1. Ann Preston

    Clinical documentation is the foundation of a patient’s medical record. Without sufficient documentation, it is hard to plan a treatment path. Improper record keeping can result in declining medical claims. These are very useful tips. I’ve been emailing the blog link on social media to my friends. Thanks for the ideas.


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