How do law firms optimize mass tort record retrieval? The need for an economic and efficient approach to record retrieval has been with us since those early mass tort cases in the 1960s. Can you imagine how their offices would have appeared before the advent of computers and electronic databases? We can be thankful that gone are the days of messy offices with walls covered in post-its and with desks filled with frazzled paralegals, spinning in their chairs as they try to make sense of stacks and stacks of complicated medical records.
These days, the current approach requires a streamlined and robust method. Optimizing the mass tort record retrieval process is simply necessary in order to conduct this type of litigation in the modern world. The discovery process of mass tort litigations can easily get out of control when retrieving or reviewing records, since there are just so, so many. With thousands of plaintiffs, mass torts are one of the largest types of litigations, and the resolutions to these cases can take years to achieve. Mass tort attorneys need advanced systems to access and organize the medical information of their plaintiffs. They need to be able to circle back to the same case years down the line and be equipped to pick up where they left off. More and more often, mass tort attorneys rely on outsourcing this task to record retrieval experts like MRC, instead of overwhelming their own legal staffs with tasks best suited to those with medical expertise.
So, how is the mass tort record retrieval process optimized? This article aims to answer the following questions:
- Reduce the time and cost associated with mass tort record retrieval
- Select and organize mass tort plaintiffs
- Quickly acquire thousands of authorizations and subpoenas
- Establish the correct custodian of records
- Prevent follow up requests
- Effectively track, manage, and organize requests for mass torts
Reduce the time and cost associated with mass tort record retrieval
Reducing Cost for Mass Tort Record Retrieval
The most obvious pain point of mass tort record retrieval is the cost. Obtaining and compiling thousands upon thousands of medical records takes time and costs money. The costs involved are intimidating. If the ultimate goal of a mass tort case is to determine whether the plaintiffs have been wrongfully harmed, and, if so, to financially compensate them, then it would logically follow that the attorneys representing these plaintiffs are responsible for keeping the mass tort litigation costs low. It’s a near impossible task.
One approach that MRC takes to solve this problem is cost sharing. By creating our software, MRCRecords, for cost sharing in an automated & secure manner, MRC reduces the impact of the expenses involved in mass tort record retrieval. Courts encourage – and may even order – opposing parties to share the cost of medical record retrieval. This method can reduce the cost to your law firm by 50% if shared with the opposing counsel. It can be reduced even further if there are several law firms involved with either side, which is often the case with mass tort litigation.
In our mass tort record retrieval case study, Answering the Challenges of Mass Tort Record Retrieval, MRC implemented this cost-sharing method and helped our clients reduce costs with WiseFiles®, our proprietary solution to managing, organizing, and hosting medical documents. With the help of MRC, this specific mass tort litigation overcame the challenges of coordinating over a dozen law firms and maintaining close relationships with the points of contact for thousands of plaintiffs. All the while, MRC adhered to the rules and regulations of three separate courts where actions had been filed. Most impressively, our medical experts collected and organized over 5,000,000 pages of records. Thanks to our cost-sharing enabling system, WiseFiles®, and our team of experts, the mass tort litigation was resolved, with funds left over to distribute between the plaintiffs appropriately.
Increasing Business Efficiency within Mass Tort Record Retrieval
Another pain point of mass tort record retrieval is how much work it takes to simply push paper. It’s not just high cost; it’s high effort, too. Our experts at MRC have proven they can rise to the challenge of taking over our clients’ caseload and meeting deadlines swiftly.
In another case study, High-Volume Medical Record Review with Tight Deadlines, our team of experts accomplished record retrieval and medical review for 150 plaintiffs within 2 weeks. This included over 3,000 requests. Due to our efforts, the discovery phase of this mass tort was cut short, and there was subsequent pressure toward resolution. At MRC, our team is fully-staffed and equipped to meet the high demands of the most-challenging and time-sensitive caseloads.
Select and Organize Mass Tort Plaintiffs
One of the most essential keys to optimizing the mass tort record retrieval process is by having a structured and coherent method to select and organize plaintiffs, through the implementation of the electronic plaintiff fact sheet (ePFS). With this court-approved, standard form, the plaintiff can document the alleged harm done in a uniform and systemized way that allows for direct comparison with the other plaintiffs. The ePFS is reviewed by attorneys on both sides for factuality and deficiency. A well-structured ePFS is an invaluable tool for mass tort cases.
To maximize the benefits of using this standardized form, however, one must first know which questions to ask. That’s where our legal nurse consultants at MRC truly show their value. Our legal nurse consultants help create a line of inquiry using direct language to narrow the focus of these questions. By limiting what is asked to procure only relevant data for each plaintiff, we prevent the overall loss of money and time to retrieval of superfluous records. Our legal nurse consultants help you determine which questions will inform and align with your legal strategy, setting up the success of the mass tort claim.
In addition, our proprietary, browser-based system WiseFiles® provides an optimal solution to ePFS management. One advantage of using encrypted internet portals to collect, manage, and exchange ePFS’s is that all parties have the same safe and HIPAA-compliant way to access protected medical information. WiseFiles® protects plaintiffs’ private medical information from being compromised or exposed to the outside world. Another crucial advantage is that by storing this information electronically, trends in data become apparent faster. Seeing which direction the evidence points to early on will prepare attorneys, strengthen legal strategy, and reduce costs. By making these assessments at the beginning, we work together with our clients to curtail the size of the mass tort record retrieval and prioritize strong cases.
Quickly Acquire Thousands of Authorizations And Subpoenas
To further optimize the mass tort record retrieval process, try thinking outside the box when considering how to go about getting authorizations and subpoenas. Before these large litigations can begin, thousands of consent forms must be signed and thousands of requests must be sent out. This is the first step in the paperwork process, and unless it’s completed quickly, all progress will stall.
Before a request can be sent out – well, before thousands of requests can be sent out – plaintiffs must provide authorization for the requests of private and protected medical information. This is always done in the form of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorizations, which allow certain groups to use the plaintiff’s health information for purposes that must be disclosed in the request. In short, the HIPAA form ascertains the plaintiff/patient’s consent to release. There are occasionally reasons a plaintiff may not be able to sign. In such circumstances, a Power of Attorney document or death certificate may be required. Furthermore, there is always the possibility that the party holding the medical records may require additional specialized authorization forms. As you can see, there is a lot to consider before the process really begins.
Consider what it is like to be on the receiving end of these thousands of requests. Would you prefer to receive all required authorizations and forms ready to go in one neat packet? Or would you prefer receiving an incomplete request that requires mailing responses back and forth, with the risk of losing the initial paperwork received at the onset? Of course, you would prefer the first option. At MRC, our trusted experts have the experience and familiarity with these systems. When we send out authorizations, we already know what is required at the receiving end. MRC expedites these authorizations cohesively, without the dreaded back and forth.
Gathering all of the authorizations needed to initiate the mass tort retrieval process is a cheaper alternative to requesting records by subpoena, but it does take longer. With authorizations, a turn-around period of 30-45 days is typical. If time is of the essence, requesting records by subpoena may be the way to go. On the federal level, the turnaround time for records requested by subpoena is 14 days. On the state level, it can be quicker, at 2 to 3 days. Though subpoenas are a more expensive option initially, getting a head start on discovery by going this route can save you money in the long run.
It is best to be specific with requests. Individualized requests made to their specific departments will return better results than broad requests, which can lead to no records at all or literally all records, leading, in turn, to more record fees. For further reading on this matter, please see our article, Best Practices When Requesting Records with a Subpoena.
MRC handles authorizations and subpoenas for our clients. No litigation is too large. Our team is equipped to prepare and serve subpoenas on the state and federal levels. When you outsource these time-consuming tasks to us, you will be in experienced hands.
Establish the Correct Custodian of Records
Part of understanding mass tort record retrieval requires getting into the weeds of the process. The paper pusher’s job may seem simple – tedious yet simple – and it can be. That is, if you are possessing the correct information. Unfortunately, due to the reality of human error, that is not often the case. When mass tort attorneys come to us with thousands of medical histories to investigate, a lot can get lost in those weeds.
Specifically, plaintiffs may not always know the correct custodian of their medical records. It is very common for plaintiffs to unknowingly provide false information. Perhaps they provided the physical address of the doctor they visited, or perhaps they provided the billing address where they paid medical bills. If an appointment office or a billing office receives the plaintiff’s records request in error, they are not obligated and may not be willing to pass it on to the medical record’s office.
At MRC, it is our job to track down the correct medical records departments before sending out any forms. For each doctor of each of the thousands of plaintiffs in a mass tort case, we research medical providers, verify the correct custodian’s address by phone, and follow up in person. This takes man hours. By outsourcing these tasks to MRC, top mass tort litigators can save a fortune in person hours.
Prevent Follow Up Requests
Following up to records requests must be prevented entirely or at least kept at minimum in order to optimize the mass tort record retrieval process. As previously established in this article, it is paramount to submit a fully- comprehensive paperwork packet at the onset of your records request. Two significant elements in this preparation is knowing what medical providers require and understanding the scope of the request.
There are over one million medical providers in the United States today, each with their own personalized release-of-information documents, unique systems of records management, and individual fees. Many of these providers are familiar to us. At MRC, we have facilitated the exchange between these providers and mass tort attorneys for over 20 years. During that time, our experts at MRC have learned we don’t have time to second-guess the specifics of each medical provider. What we don’t know, we research. To eliminate the need for follow up, we come prepared with the knowledge of how the medical provider operates and what they expect.
Keep in mind, the number of records requests for mass torts would be infinite without economizing them. While we do not want to leave anything out, there is a danger in making requests that are too broad. MRC legal nurse consultants are keenly adept at refining requests to fit within the scope of the litigation. For instance, if an adult female plaintiff received injury from an IUD breaking upon
removal, it would not be necessary to know which antibiotic she used for a cold she had as a child. By narrowing requests to the relevant information, MRC reduces the cost of discovery for mass tort litigation firms.
Effectively Track, Manage, and Organize for Mass Torts
While we cannot give away all our secrets to optimizing the mass tort record retrieval process, we can guarantee that tracking, managing, and organizing records requests within our proprietary system, WiseFiles®, makes it much easier.
WiseFiles® tracks the real-time location of any document in question. Each delivery and transition is accounted for. Should any issue arise – whether that be missing fees or incomplete information – it will be clearly notated in the WiseFiles® tracking system and clearly visible for swift remedy. Tracking records requests keeps progress on schedule and keeps all parties informed.
WiseFiles® empowers its users to organize plaintiffs’ medical records effectively. Medical files are comprised of many chunks of data; only some of which are pertinent to the mass tort case at hand. It’s not always intuitive to the layman to distinguish what’s important and what’s not. WiseFiles® presents a coherent view of plaintiffs’ medical data that can be customized to the individual demands of any mass tort case.
In conclusion, top mass tort attorneys trust MRC to work alongside them as they select plaintiffs, acquire authorizations and subpoenas, retrieve records, and review the organized records for medical review. At MRC, we do the work we are well-suited for, so that our attorney clients can focus on litigation. To close, the surest way for law firms to optimize the mass tort record retrieval process is by outsourcing the task to records retrieval experts like MRC.