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Author: Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at dfrith@frithlawfirm.com.

Are Your Medical Records Important?

August 27, 2020

Well…what do you think?

You know the answer…your medical records are extremely important, especially in this day of electronic records.  Those records contain you health history, your medications, your surgical history and prior hospitalizations.  Those records detail whether you have allergic reactions to certain types or kinds of medications. Those records provide your health care providers with information they need to know in order to treat you with competent and appropriate care.  Those records, if accurate, might save your life.

But not everyone’s medical records are accurate and we have seen hundreds of examples.  How about medical records which contain the wrong blood type…or records which fail to alert subsequent providers that you have a severe allergy to certain antibiotics (i.e., amoxicillin, ampicillin, or penicillin)?  A doctor or nurse who relies upon inaccurate medical records and administers a medication to which you have a known reaction can cause serious medical problems.  For example, the administration of those drugs can cause Anaphylactic Shock, a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. The reaction can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to.  How about medical records which indicate a patient had given birth twice…only she had never been pregnant! The problem with inaccurate medical records in the day of electronic medical records is magnified because the incorrect information is copied over and over into multiple providers’ records.

These problems result despite protections under the  Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which gives patients the right to request to see and get a copy of their health records and the right to correct health information. Under HIPAA, the record must also be provided at a reasonable cost, within 30 days of the request’s receipt, and in the requested format, if possible.

My Take:  Your medical records are yours…not the doctor’s not the hospital’s.  Request and review your records.  The cost, if produced electronically on a CD, should run less than $25.  When you make the request tell your provider you want everything in the record including nursing notes, admission histories and physicals, operative and procedure notes, consult notes, radiology and laboratory reports. If your doctor refuses to provide your records…maybe you need another doctor.

What you find in your records might shock you…and if you correct the record it might save your life.

Are Your Medical Records Important?

August 27, 2020

Well…what do you think?

You know the answer…your medical records are extremely important, especially in this day of electronic records.  Those records contain your health history, your medications, your surgical history and prior hospitalizations.  Those records detail whether you have allergic reactions to certain types or kinds of medications. Those records provide your health care providers with information they need to know in order to treat you with competent and appropriate care.  Those records, if accurate, might save your life.

But not everyone’s medical records are accurate and we have seen hundreds of examples.  How about medical records which contain the wrong blood type…or records which fail to alert subsequent providers that you have a severe allergy to certain antibiotics (i.e., amoxicillin, ampicillin, or penicillin)?  A doctor or nurse who relies upon inaccurate medical records and administers a medication to which you have a known reaction can cause serious medical problems.  For example, the administration of those drugs can cause Anaphylactic Shock, a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. The reaction can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to.  How about medical records which indicate a patient had given birth twice…only she had never been pregnant! The problem with inaccurate medical records in the day of electronic medical records is magnified because the incorrect information is copied over and over into multiple providers’ records.

These problems result despite protections under the  Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which gives patients the right to request to see and get a copy of their health records and the right to correct health information. Under HIPAA, the record must also be provided at a reasonable cost, within 30 days of the request’s receipt, and in the requested format, if possible.

My Take:  Your medical records are yours…not the doctor’s not the hospital’s.  Request and review your records.  The cost, if produced electronically on a CD, should run less than $25.  When you make the request tell your provider you want everything in the record including nursing notes, admission histories and physicals, operative and procedure notes, consult notes, radiology and laboratory reports. If your doctor refuses to provide your records…maybe you need another doctor.

What you find in your records might shock you…and if you correct the record it might save your life.

Telemedicine and the Coronavirus

July 23, 2020

Yes they are related.  Telemedicine, or the use of remote audio-visual technology to provide medical care has been around for years.  It probably got its first start when smaller rural hospitals used remote radiologists to interpret x-rays, CTs, and MRI studies during the middle of the night or on weekends when local radiologists were unavailable.  The slow growth of the provision of medical services in this manner got an injection of steroids from the Coronavirus pandemic.  Today, every healthcare provider of any level of sophistication is pushing Telemedicine.  Nancy Agee, President and CEO of Carilion Clinic, has publicly stated that within a week of shutting down all nonessential medical visits and procedures due to the Coronavirus, Carilion doctors completed about 11,000 video chats and calls.  Teladoc, the largest Telemedicine company in the U.S., which provides patients with 24/7 access to doctors, saw a hundred percent increase in virtual doctor’s visits from the first week of March to the first week of April in 2020. To accommodate this increase in visits, the company doubled its roster of doctors from three thousand to six thousand and includes internists, dermatologists, dieticians, pediatricians, and psychiatrists.  The platform now handles twenty thousand visits a day.  Prior to the pandemic, virtual doctors had to be licensed in the state that the patient called from.  That is no longer the case during the pandemic and I doubt we will ever return to the previous rules.  Telemedicine is growing fast and is here to stay.

Telemedicine can be good and it can be bad.  The good parts are pretty obvious.  No one wants to wait weeks or months to see a doctor.  No one wants to drive 2 hours to see a cardiologist, gastroenterologist or neurosurgeon.  Many medical problems are relatively minor, uncomplicated, and can be diagnosed and treatment order via an audio-visual hookup.  The American Telemedicine Association lists the benefits to include: improved access to expert health care, especially in less-populated areas; reduced or controlled costs due to increased efficiency, better management of chronic diseases, shared staffing, reduced travel times and shorter hospital stays; and equal or even better quality of care, especially in services such as mental health and intensive care.

Telemedicine can be bad.  First, it is somewhat difficult to conduct a thorough physical examination of the patient.  Many doctors believe that 90 percent of figuring out a patient’s problems comes from a thorough review of their history and current symptoms but 10 percent still comes from a “hands on” examination – you cannot do a belly exam via video.  Second, what about patients with technological limitations….like a high percentage of the elderly who may not be comfortable working with a laptop computer?  Third, what about those patients who do not have access to the internet or sufficiently fast internet?  Those folks get left out.

Want to know what the healthcare providers in Virginia have to say?  Check out the following links for statements from the 3 largest healthcare providers/hospital organizations in our area of Virginia:  

Carilion Clinic’s information on Telemedicine (Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Carilion New River Valley Medical Center, Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital, Carilion Tazewell Community Hospital:

                                        https://carilionclinic.org/digital-health#new-options-for-visits

Ballad Health’s information on Telemedicine (Bristol Regional Hospital, Dickenson Community Hospital, Johnston Memorial Hospital, Lonesome Pine Hospital, Mountain View Regional Hospital, Norton Community Hospital, Russell County Hospital:, and Smyth County Hospital:

                                        https://www.balladhealth.org/medical-services/connected-care-telehealth

 

Lewis Gale Medical Center’s information on Telemedicine (LewisGale Hospital Alleghany, LewisGale Hospital Montgomery, LewisGale Hospital Pulaski:

                                        https://lgphysicians.com/patient-center/telehealth.dot

 

 

 

 

 

Radiologist Loses Medical License

June 19, 2020

Why does this keep happening?

A Richmond area radiologist,  Michael J. Bigg, MD, has been summarily suspended from medical practice amid allegations of repeatedly missing signs of cancer in his patients’ mammograms.  The Virginia Board of Medicine found Michael J. Bigg’s practice constituted a danger to public health or safety. Dr. Bigg owns the Allison Breast Center in western Henrico County which advertised a more comfortable mammography experience for patients. Bigg has not only lost his right to practice radiology, he faces a $4 million malpractice lawsuit and a federal tax judgment of more than $1 million.

The Board of Medicine found Dr. Bigg was “incompetent to practice medicine and surgery with safety to patients and the public, in that he [and his staff] failed, contrary to sound medical judgment and acceptable standards of medical practice, to appropriately work-up, diagnose, and manage multiple Allison Breast Center patients, failed to maintain complete and accurate records for these patients, and failed to conduct himself and his practice in a safe and responsible manner.” The statement of allegations prepared by the Virginia Board of Medicine identified 18 patients who allegedly received substandard care.

Bigg purchased the Allison Breast Center in 2012.  The bigger question is why did it take the Virginia Board of Medicine 8 years to find out he was a danger to his patients. The report from the Board cited past and current staff members who said the practice saw 50-70 patients a day.  You do the math.   Wonder how many patients Dr. Biggs hurt or  injured during those 8 years?

 

What Costs Can I Anticipate in Prosecuting
a Medical Malpractice Case?

April 30, 2020

Medical malpractice cases are typically complex and very different from most personal injury cases. This article will attempt to summarize what we tell our clients about the litigation costs they can anticipate as their case progresses.

First, we must collect all of the relevant medical records. These records will come from a hospital (where a failed surgery occurred), the treating doctor’s office, the patient’s primary care physician or family doctor, records from any subsequent treating doctors or hospitalizations necessary to correct the negligent doctor’s harm, and even pharmacy records extending back multiple years.

Good Medicine in the time of Covid-19

April 27, 2020

My initial plans for this blog post have taken a turn. I initially wanted to comment about how people who need to see their doctor, or even worse, need to be seen immediately in a hospital emergency department, were not being seen or treated because our healthcare system was overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients. Why? Because they had a reasonable fear of contracting Covid-19 from other patients or even their healthcare providers if they sought care at their family doctor’s office, the ever present “doc in a box,” or the local emergency department.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“The Hidden Toll of Untreated Illness”) focused on this very issue. The article reported how at Detroit Medical Center the number of heart attacks being treated dropped from 15 to 20 a week to one or two. The article discussed how the case volumes for appendicitis, gallbladder infections, and obstetric emergencies had all dropped in frequency. The article concluded that based upon prior epidemics from around the world (Ebola, HIV/AIDS, and malaria) the United States may well see “non-coronavirus” deaths increase in large numbers. I intended to conclude this blog by encouraging Virginians to avoid going to the doctor for routine issues like blood pressure or diabetes management…save those trips for chest pain, stroke symptoms, serious and unrelenting abdominal pain, etc. In short, seek medical care for important and serious medical issues, regardless of the current pandemic.

And then I read an article in today’s Roanoke Times written by Luanne Rife, “Care Hard to Find for Virus Sufferer.” The article was about Becky Helgeson who went to her local emergency department at Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital with two weeks of worsening Covid-19 symptoms, at the direction of her family doctor, and was turned away from the emergency department by a nurse! That’s right, her symptoms had been present for two weeks and had worsened to the point she could not breathe. Her family doctor wanted her to get a chest x-ray and possibly IV antibiotics…but she was turned away from the emergency department by a nurse.

After being turned away from Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, two additional weeks of worsening symptoms resulted in a friend calling her treating doctor (a pulmonologist) who called the emergency department of a hospital located in a nearby city. She was seen at that hospital the next day, received a nebulizer treatment and steroid shot within one hour, an EKG, chest x-ray and blood was drawn. She was diagnosed with continuing Covid-19 symptoms and acute bronchitis. She is now recovering from her illness.

My Question: How can this happen? How can an Emergency Department turn away a patient with Covid-19 symptoms lasting two weeks who presents at the hospital emergency department upon the direction of her doctor? We need a better answer from Carilion Clinic than…we are “disappointed to read” about what happened. Someone should lose their job because someone could have lost their life.

How We Help Other Attorneys
in Virginia with Medical
Malpractice Cases

April 17, 2020

Learn more about how the attorneys at Frith Ellerman & Davis Law Firm work with referring lawyers throughout the state of Virginia. They are proud of their relationships with attorneys throughout the state who come to them due to their expertise and experience in medical malpractice cases.

Where do we handle
Medical Malpractice Cases
in Virginia?

April 17, 2020

Medical malpractice attorney Dan Frith discusses where they handle cases in Virginia, such as Roanoke, Danville, Martinsville and the surrounding Southwest areas.

Meet Experienced Virginia
Medical Malpractice Attorney
Dan Frith.

April 17, 2020

Get to know Virginia medical malpractice attorney Dan Frith and learn more about what he likes to do outside of the office.

Frith Ellerman & Davis: Trusted
Medical Malpractice Attorneys
with Over 50 Years of Experience.

April 17, 2020

Attorney Dan Frith explains why clients should always ask why a lawyer should entrust their case to them. Frith Ellerman & Davis Law Firm, has 4 lawyers who collectively have over 50 years of experience handling medical malpractice cases and have successfully concluded over 100 cases in South Virginia.